I’m back and the takes and the block (Waco) are hot. Your Baylor Bears Men’s Basketball Team is fresh off THE most dominant defensive performance in program history, and ready to take their talents to Eugene Oregon. To everyone who read my last article I appreciate you, and apologies to anyone who took the over under my guidance – but hey we hit the Baylor by double digits lock. Without further ado let’s jump into Saturday’s matchup. Just a bit further ado, full transparency on the title of this article. I spent about an hour researching bear and duck swim speeds, and there’s no consensus so that also is an eye test.
Setting the Scene
The Who: Unanimous AP #1 Baylor MBB x Oregon MBB
The What: First true road game for Baylor MBB
The Where: Eugene, Oregon
(see article on the background and highly debated on Twitter court design - https://latimesblogs.latimes.com/sports_blog/2011/01/college-basketball-so-whats-the-deal-with-oregons-new-floor-.html for what it’s worth I think the court is sweet and the story is even sweeter)
The When: Saturday 12/18 9:00 PM CT on ESPN2
The Why: One last test for Baylor before conference play
How We Got Here
I am willing to bet that nobody was expecting to relive the Makai Mason glory days but hang with me for a minute. Baylor and Oregon haven’t played each other since December 2018 when the Payton Pritchard led Ducks traveled to Waco to battle the Makai Mason led Bears – oh what a difference three years makes. For what it is worth, the Bears beat the Ducks 57-47 that game. There is one player on Oregon’s team that played in that game, Will Richardson. Richardson leads the Ducks in scoring this year and is a Senior leader on this team. We will take a deeper look at Richardson in the Oregon Eye Test.
Beyond that there is not a ton of history between the Baylor and Oregon Men’s Basketball programs who have only met three times. Baylor is leading the series 2-1 (soon to be 3-1).
Oregon Eye Test
Oregon started the season ranked 13th in the country in the AP poll. After a 2-0 start to the season with wins over Texas Southern and SMU, the Ducks moved up to 12th in the AP poll entering the second week of the season. After a brutal 32-point loss to BYU at home, Oregon dropped out of the rankings and haven’t been back since. As a matter of fact, Oregon hasn’t received an AP Top 25 vote since Week 3.
Oregon sits at 6-5 (0-2 in Pac12) and has not really beaten any high caliber teams thus far in the season. Oregon’s wins come against Texas Southern, SMU, Chaminade, Montana, UC Riverside, and Portland. The Ducks have some tough losses coming to BYU, Saint Mary’s, Houston, Arizona State, and Stanford - woof.
There are several factors that contribute to Oregon’s disappointing start to the season. As of 12/16/21 the Ducks rank outside of the top 200 nationally in six out of the eight major team categories according to ESPN.
Team PPG: 70.9 (Tied for 202)
Team APG: 12.3 (Tied for 246)
Team FG%: 45.7% (Tied for 113)
Team FT%: 66.3% (Tied for 286)
Team 3P%: 33.6% (Tied for 181)
Team RPG: 33.9 (Tied for 274)
Team BPG: 2.45 (283)
Team SPG: 6.0 (Tied for 252)
Not great folks.
For a more detailed stats look jump into this article by ODB statistics savant Cody Orr.
Fun nugget for the crew, these Oregon Ducks gave up more points to Chaminade than your Baylor Bears gave up to Villanova…truthfully this is more of a flex for the Bears than a knock on the Ducks, but you see my point. Oregon is not going to be anywhere close to the strongest ball club that Baylor plays this season.
I am by no means saying that Oregon is totally at fault for this lack-luster start; what we are seeing here is another classic overhype of the Pac12 as a basketball conference with Bill Walton likely paying off a number of AP voters – I kid, sort of.
Two mutual opponents for Baylor and Oregon are Arizona State and Stanford. Baylor bested Arizona State in the Battle 4 Atlantis 75 - 63, and Oregon lost to Arizona State at home in overtime 69 - 67. Baylor throttled Stanford at home 86-48, and Oregon lost to Stanford 72-69 at home.
Let’s just take a look at the similarities between how both teams played Arizona State. Against Oregon, Arizona State shot 46.6% from the field, and 38.1% from the three. On the other hand, Baylor held Arizona State to 35.7% from the field, and 37% from three. As previously mentioned with the Chaminade dig, Oregon is not a great defensive team. The Ducks are beatable off the dribble and screens, leading to high percentage shots in the paint. Also due to inconsistent rotation and help defense, teams have been able to exploit Oregon from downtown, whereas our Baylor Bears are a defensive wagon.
However, Oregon does have some key players that will be worth watching and could contribute to a tough first true road game for the Bears. This is college basketball after all; anything can happen. In the wise words of Jon Rothstein “Anarchy”.
Oregon Players to Watch
#0 Will Richardson – Guard
Will Richardson is a 6’5” Senior that leads the Ducks in scoring at 11.8 PPG and is the only Oregon player that averages double digits. Richardson is shooting a solid 42.9% from three this year. In Oregon’s wins Richardson has shot well from deep and in their losses he typically has not.
Richardson has a tight dribble, plays in control, and has decent court vision. In addition to leading the Ducks in scoring, Richardson also leads the team in assists at 3.1 APG. After watching some tape, Richardson has had a number of assist opportunities that aren’t converted due to spotty shooting from his teammates.
The primary downside for Richardson is on the defensive side of the ball. Whoever Richardson is the primary defender for should be able to beat him with a quick first step.
#50 Eric Williams Jr. – Forward
Eric Williams Jr. is a 6’7” Senior that leads the Ducks in rebounding at 5.2 RPG. Williams Jr. is Oregon’s second leading scorer at 9.8 PPG. Williams Jr. is a capable scorer, posting double digit points in five or Oregon’s eleven games; his season high came against SMU where he put up 19 points, on an efficient 57.1% from the field.
Williams Jr. has been at Oregon for two seasons after starting his career at Duquesne, where he averaged 14 PPG both seasons. Cementing his spot in the rotation, Williams Jr. has become a key contributor for the Ducks.
A strength for Williams Jr. is his ability to put the ball on the court and attack the basket off the dribble. His athleticism shines when he goes to the hoop and is something defenders must respect which also opens up pull up jumpers when the ball is in his hands.
Williams Jr. is a bit undersized and can be contained offensively when guarded by a bigger forward that is also athletic. Remind you of anyone on Baylor’s roster? Hint every forward we have.
#42 Jacob Young – Guard
Jacob Young is a 6’3” Senior and an NCAAM journeyman. Oregon is Young’s third college team since 2016. Young started his career at Texas (2016-2018), then played at Rutgers (2019-2020), before transferring this offseason to Oregon.
Although Young has been in the NCAA since 2016, he hasn’t played in that many games, prior to this year appearing in only 30 games. 20 of those games came last year at Rutgers where he averaged 14.1 PPG and 3.4 APG for the Scarlet Knights in the 2020-2021 season.
So far this season, Young is playing roughly 27 minutes per game for the Ducks, is second on the team in assists at 2.4 APG, and is fourth on the team in scoring at 8.9 PPG. Young’s production is down as he is not the primary option offensively for Oregon.
Young is an X-Factor in my eyes though because he can heat up in a hurry and create off the dribble for himself and teammates. That being said, Young is a bit undersized at 6’3” which makes it difficult to switch all positions on high ball screens defensively.
#5 De’Vion Harmon – Guard
De’Vion Harmon is a 6’2” Junior who should look very familiar to Baylor fans. Harmon spent his first two years of college ball at Oklahoma. In 2020 Harmon was the second leading scorer on the Sooners at 12.9 PPG only behind Austin Reaves, who is now somehow productive in the NBA.
So far this year Harmon is Oregon’s third leading scorer averaging 9.5 PPG. Harmon is solid shooter from three, but really tries to get downhill with the ball in his hands and use his broader frame for a guard to get to the basket.
Baylor has historically contained Harmon; in three matchups with the Bears while at OU Harmon shot 25%, 28.6%, and 25% from the field. Those numbers are what we call clamps my friends. I expect Drew to defend Harmon by doubling on the drive, and airtight on ball defense to prevent giving him space to get a head of steam going to the rim.
#13 Quincy Guerrier – Forward
Quincy Guerrier is a 6’8” Junior and is stretch forward. This season is Guerrier’s first at Oregon after starting his college career at Syracuse; he transferred to Oregon this offseason. Guerrier played in most of Syracuse’s games his Freshman and Sophomore seasons. Last season Guerrier averaged 13.7 PPG for the Orange, shooting 49.3% from the field and a respectable 31.1% from three.
Guerrier is quite honestly one of the players who concerns me most. He creates matchup issues for opponents with his size and ball skills. He has a quick step for a player of his size and build, at a lean 220 lbs. Guerrier is a solid dribbler who can get to the rim effectively and use his body when smaller defenders switch on to him. Guerrier also has the ability to pick and pop and knock down threes on spot up shots.
Oregon has run a few sets this season where Guerrier gets the ball at the elbow and looks to pass to cutter or dive to the rim and score. Guerrier is also active on the fast break and is in great shape to run the floor in transition.
#11 Rivaldo Soares – Guard
Rivaldo Soares is a 6’6” Junior who started his college basketball career at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas. Soares is a big frame guard and candidly there is not a ton of tape on him because it is his first season in Division I basketball.
Soares has appeared in all 11 of Oregon’s games so far this year and is sixth on the team in minutes. Soares is a key contributor for the Ducks averaging 6.2 PPG and is a solid rebounding guard averaging 3.4 RPG.
Soares has been heating up in the last few games for the Ducks while playing more consistent minutes, scoring 11 points against Arizona State and 10 points against Stanford. His minutes and therefore production dipped in Oregon’s most recent game against Portland, but against a lesser opponent Soares’ contribution wasn’t as needed.
#1 N’Faly Dante – Center
N’Faly Dante is a 6’11” Junior and an emerging player for Oregon. Dante only plays about 17 minutes per game and is really only used when Oregon’s opponent has a true center. I expect Dante to see minutes Saturday to match up with Flo. Dante has been productive in his limited minutes, averaging 8.6 PPG and 4.8 RPG.
Dante is a slow defender so if he plays significant minutes look for Baylor to screen and roll him to death, like they did to the fraud that is Drew Timme.
Look at the end of the day Baylor is a much better team than Oregon. Dana Altman is a great college coach who has been around for a long time but has been dealt a tough hand this season with so many fresh faces on the Ducks. Much of Oregon’s struggles are due to lack on continuity and consistency on the team with Williams Jr., Young, Harmon, Guerrier, and Soares all being transfers.
Oregon does have a talented roster, however, which makes the start of the season puzzling. As it is a road game on a historic court I wouldn’t be surprised if Oregon turns it on and gives Baylor trouble.
In total eye test fashion, something that does have me absolutely mesmerized with Oregon is how many left-handed players they have. I mentioned this in my last article, but there is something about a lefties that just look so sweet shooting.
The bottom line is, this will be a test for the Baylor Bears, but I expect them to pass this test with flying colors (green and gold flinging afar being the colors of course).
Why Baylor Wins
The Bears are going to get it done. I can see this game getting out of hand in the second half and some of the deeper rotation players getting minutes. That being said the key contributors to why Baylor will win are the eight guys that play big minutes. Let’s dive in to how all these studs will impact the game, again with Twitter handles so follow our kings.
#0 Flo Thamba – @Flo_T3
We all know and love Flo Thamba. Flo has been an impact player on the defensive end of the court this year for the Bears. It makes virtually no sense for a guy of his size, but Flo is so often in great position to draw charges. I think it is largely in part to how long he has been in the scheme, but Flo is always in the right place. Flo has also developed as a rim protector as of late. Flo is tied for the lead in blocks on the team this season, his length certainly impacts opponents’ shots even when he doesn’t get a block.
I expect Flo to be a force in the paint against the Ducks when their guards drive to the basket, and to limit N’Faly Dante’s involvement.
Speaking of blocks, does everyone remember him annihilating Brandon Slater?
#1 Jeremy Sochan – @SochanJeremy
Allow me to re-enter my Jeremy Sochan bag, and remind everyone that I said to buy the Jeremy Sochan stock. Sochan was one point shy of a double double against Villanova and played lights out defensively. Sochan’s ability to switch and guard all five positions uniquely positions him to be a staple for the Bears and give this rotation the flexibility that Drew loves in his teams. Drew has mixed and matched lineups this year and Sochan is the definition of a plug and play piece.
The most impressive part of Sochan’s game so far this season has been his nose for the ball. Sochan rebounds at an incredibly high level and is second on the Bears in rebounding - just behind EJ. The Ducks are not a great rebounding team, and I think that Sochan is going to absolutely eat on the boards by either extending possessions on the offensive glass, or getting the boys running off Oregon misses on the defensive glass.
#2 Kendall Brown – @TheeKbrown
Villanova did a great job containing Kendall Brown offensively, which makes me think that this game at Oregon is going to be a huge game for Brown. Baylor is a great rebounding team, whereas Oregon is an average rebounding team. I expect Baylor to try and create in transition off of Oregon misses, which points to success for athletic teams and players…psst, that’s Kendall Brown and the Bears.
Here’s where the title of the article comes in to play. I expect the Bears to push the pace on Oregon. Look for Baylor to play extremely fast on Saturday, which is a strength of this entire team, but especially a strength of Kendall Brown. Brown has a unique awareness in transition to pick and commit to a lane on the break and also jump over everyone on the court.
#4 LJ Cryer – @LjCryer
Baylor hasn’t had the hottest shooting start to the season this year, but a bright spot has been leading scorer LJ Cryer at 14.6 PPG. Cryer is shooting 47.2% from deep this season and leads the team in three-point attempts with 53. I expect Cryer to have a big game and continue shooting well from deep.
LJ is an extremely unique piece on this Baylor team. A team that’s identity is as a long athletic team, Cryer is a 6”1’ guard with dummy bounce (get to the Ferrell early and watch him in warmups), and as we just discussed an absolute burner from downtown. Cryer is an athlete that can run and knock down catch and shoot threes in transition.
Double digit evening for Cryer in Eugene is a lock.
#10 Adam Flagler – @adamflagler
So, I may have been one week early on predicting a breakout game from Flagler, but I think we saw a bunch of promise out of him against Villanova. Flagler struggled from three against Villanova shooting 0-4 on the day, but he was an efficient 5-7 on two-point attempts. Flagler also did a great job against Villanova creating for others with five assists.
I am expecting Flagler to have an efficient scoring game against an Oregon team who often struggles to defend off the dribble and screens. Flagler should have a lot of success getting into the paint and drawing fouls to get to the stripe.
Some of the prettiest plays against Villanova came off Flagler kissing the ball high off the glass. Check out this breakdown from Fran Fraschilla on how Baylor uses the glass with “Level 1” shots above the square.
Coaches: In player development, @BaylorMBB divides the backboard into Three Levels with Level 1 shots OVER the “square” & over the shot blocker. Reminded of it yesterday when @adamflagler hit a couple of these. pic.twitter.com/yKQWWrEbCa— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) December 13, 2021
#11 James Akinjo – @akinjojames3 (Insta no Twitter for our boy)
Akinjo led the team in scoring against Villanova with 16 points and in shot attempts while shooting 6-15 from the field. Akinjo is such a great creator off the dribble for others and has an incredibly quick first step; I would like to see him look to distribute just a bit more often. It seems that sometimes Akinjo shoulders too much of the burden offensively and could defer to his teammates to score.
I could see this changing against a lesser opponent like Oregon, especially if Akinjo sees a few of his teammates make shots early. Oregon isn’t an incredibly disciplined team on defense, so I expect Akinjo to get to the line early and often against the Ducks.
#23 Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (EJ/JTT) – @JonathanTchamwa
I refuse to believe that this team would be where it is today without the effort, spirit, and JOY that EJ plays with. EJ is a defensive presence and that travels to any arena. Yes, this game is Baylor’s first true road test, but I think that our defense will be just as great with EJ at the center of its success. Check out this great article by our guy Michael Nichols on the defense and EJ.
EJ will have an impact offensively as well. Like Brown, EJ is an athletic specimen that will be huge on the boards and also in transition. I fully expect EJ to impact this game on both ends of the court as he always does with a smile on his face from start to finish.
#24 Matthew Mayer – @MatthewMayer24
Mayer had an uncharacteristically tough day offensively against Villanova but showed his maturity and leadership the entire time. Hand up, coming into the season I was concerned with Mayer’s ability to impact games if he had an off-night shooting or his leadership because we didn’t see that often last season with the experience we had on the team. Holy buckets, did Mayer prove me wrong. His effort on both ends of the court was unprecedented, and the exclamation point was his block on a Villanova three-point attempt in transition.
As I’ve said with almost every player in Baylor’s rotation, I also expect Mayer to have a big game offensively and bounce back. Oregon doesn’t have a single guy on their roster that can hang with Mayer defensively. I expect Mayer to turn it on and lead the Bears in scoring with 15 plus.
Exhales…that was a lot and I appreciate you, yes you, for reading all of my probably off base takes. But here we go. We nailed the prediction last time, so let’s double down. BAYLOR BY 15+. I am tempted to even say Bears by 20, but I’ll give the Ducks the benefit of the doubt because we are playing in Eugene.
I fully expect the Bears to play incredibly fast and prove my eye test that bears swim/run/whatever faster than ducks as the title of this publication suggests. The play in transition will be pivotal, catalyzed by the Bears winning the rebound and turnover battle against the Ducks. Let’s have some early holiday cheer and roast some duck this Saturday evening.
Baylor 82 – Oregon 64
I unfortunately have not been able to locate any betting information on this game yet, but follow me on Twitter and I will post the line and point total when it comes out and inevitably bet the over. The Drew Crew is going to be all smiles Saturday night.