No Need to Panic
When your team blows a 13 point lead with less than 9 minutes to play, it’s tempting to start looking around and wonder if the preseason expectations were a little overblown. Shouldn’t a preseason top 20 team be able to close out a game against an unranked, young opponent? Can a team that faltered down the stretch and scored only 10 points in 10 minutes really compete in the grueling Big XII?
Let’s address some of those concerns.
First, a 67-64 loss to the Washington Huskies is far from a bad loss for you Baylor Bears. Washington is the 43rd ranked team by KenPom, and this “neutral-site” game in Alaska was densely populated with Huskies fans. The level of difficulty in this game was roughly equivalent to a game in Stillwater, Ames, Fort Worth, or Manhattan. In that context, this loss doesn’t feel that detrimental, despite being obviously disappointing.
Second, Washington is a bad matchup for Baylor. Aside from 6-0 Quade Green, Washington’s closing lineup was 6-6 Nahziah Carter, and a trio of 6-9 athletes in Jaden McDaniels, Hameir Wright, and Isaiah Stewart. McDaniels and Stewart are high level freshman, the former long and springy while the latter is built and skilled. Washington’s zone resembles something that Baylor would have thrown out at the start of the decade. It’s no accident that Matisse Thybulle, already terrorizing ball handlers as an NBA rookie, came from Mike Hopkins’ system.
That is a lot of length for Scott Drew’s three guard lineup to handle. Baylor closed the game with Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell, MaCio Teague, Mark Vital, and Tristan Clark. That lineup features three 6-3 guards (being generous to Mitchell) and a 6-5 non-shooting power forward. “Non-shooting” might even oversell Vital’s ability to hit a jump shot. The Bears struggled mightily creating quality looks down the stretch.
Even when Baylor was able to get the ball to Clark or Vital at the elbow, neither could make the Huskies pay. Washington recorded 4 blocks in the final 5 minutes. Clark, Vital, and Freddie Gillespie all got stuffed - Baylor’s three bulliest, bulkiest players. Clark was sent back twice at the rim in the final 7 minutes, absolutely unheard of last season. Washington’s defense in the final 8 minutes was outstanding.
Washington is a unique team. Baylor doesn’t have another opponent on its schedule that looks or plays like these Huskies. The three guard lineup will continue to be tested, but it should have more airspace to work with moving forward. Baylor’s only remaining opponent with a taller average height than Washington, by the way? Kansas. Something to monitor.
- Jared Butler is a certified baller. 18 points on 9 shots, 4-6 3PT, 4 assists, 3 rebounds. He’s averaging 24 points through two games and and is 12-18 on threes. Holy moly.
- Tristan Clark is Baylor’s...second best big right now? Freddie Gillespie is averaging 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds while Clark has struggled in returning from a major knee injury. Clark has scored 10 points on 4-16 2PT shooting. The guy who averaged 73% FG last season is not yet on the roster.
- Clark looks rusty, as well. He was tentative against Washington’s zone, hesitant where he was previously decisive. Clark will knock the rust off eventually, and Baylor will need him to.
- Matt Mayer is still himself, though, and Baylor needs a little less of that. He is Drew’s only big option on the wing. He needs to rein himself in for Baylor to compete against teams with size on the perimeter.
- Baylor might have the best backcourt in the conference two or three times over. Mitchell, Butler, Bandoo, and Teague already have marvelous chemistry. Those four combined for 16 assists against Washington, generating good looks through elegant player movement. When Teague finds his outside shot (1-6 against Washington), Baylor will almost always have two knock-down shooters on the court that can split ball handling duties.
- Who thought we’d see a basketball loss before a football loss?
- The schedule heats back up in December with back-to-back home games against Arizona (Dec. 7) and Butler (Dec. 10).