clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
NCAA Basketball: Baylor Big XII Champions

Filed under:

Big XII (MBB) Mega Preview: Part 3

Top Tier Teams (Baylor, Texas, Kansas)

Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

Intro

It me. Again. Which means it’s time to talk about the cream of the crop, the top tier teams in the Big XII as we approach the start of the regular season. It also means, to the joy and jubilation of myself and hopefully a few of you too, that we can finally see how Baylor fits into this picture as well as their top 2 threats. Feel free to check out the middle tier and bottom tier teams in the conference as well. And. Here. We. Go.

3. Kansas Jayhawks

2021-22 Record: 34-6 (Big XII regular season co-champions; Big XII conference tournament champions; No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament; national champions)

Coaching: Bill Self (entering 20th season with program; career record: 763-229; 16 Big XII regular season championships; 2 national championships)

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Basketball Tipoff William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

Overview

The Kansas Jayhawks have been a national powerhouse for the past 30 years (when they were in the Big 8). Since 1990, they’ve only had one season where they didn’t win at least 70% of their games. In that span, they’ve had 8 Final Four runs and a pair of national titles. Their success is what every other program in the Big XII and around the nation aspires to achieve. They come into this season wearing the crown. As Baylor is familiar with though, heavy is the head. There will be a lot of fresh faces for the Jayhawks this year and a few very familiar ones.

Roster Losses

Stat Lost Production Big XII Rank
Stat Lost Production Big XII Rank
Scoring 74.1% 7th
Rebounding 64.2% 7th
Assists 51.2% 3rd
Steals 54.2% 3rd
Blocks 75.6% 8th
Minutes 63.0% 7th

The Jayhawks lost 7 players this offseason, including notably:

  • 3 starters (Ochai Agbaji, Christian Braun, David McCormack)
  • 4 of the 5 team’s top scorers (Agbaji, Braun, McCormack, Remy Martin)

Roster Additions

Gradey Dick: 5-star high school prospect out of Wichita, Kansas. Projected as a starter.

Kevin McCullar: Former 3-star high school prospect. Transfer from the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Projected as a starter.

Ernest Udeh, Jr.: 4-star high school prospect out of Orlando, Florida. Projected as a starter.

MJ Rice: 4-star high school prospect out of Napa, California. Projected as a rotation player.

Zuby Ejiofor: 4-star high school prospect out of Garland, Texas. Projected as a rotation player.

Projected Starting Lineup

Metric Projected Lineup Big XII Rank
Metric Projected Lineup Big XII Rank
Career Games Played 216 10th
Career Games Started 143 10th
Career Minutes Played 5,563 10th
NOTE: Only Division I Stats are included

Dajuan Harris, Jr. (@DajaunH10)

Measurables: Guard, #3, 6’1” 170 lbs., Redshirt Junior

Stats: Last Season: 5.4 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 4.2 APG, and 1.5 SPG in 40 games played (39 starts; 29.0 MPG) on 42.7% FG, 32.3% 3P, and 79.2% FT. Bonus Stat: He finished 3rd in the Big XII in assists last season.

Analysis: Now in his 4th year in Lawrence, Harris is set up to be the team’s starting point guard. Coach Self looks at him as a guy who can set the tone on both ends of the floor. He is the type of player every championship caliber team should want to have. He cares significantly more about winning and helping his team than he does about personal recognition or his own stats. He doesn’t score much. He doesn’t need to score much. He is an excellent passer and perimeter defender. He does all the little things that can make an otherwise good team a great one.

Gradey Dick (@gradey_dick)

Measurables: Guard, #4, 6’7” 200 lbs., Freshman

Stats: High School (Senior Season): 17.9 PPG and 5.2 RPG on 51.3% FG and 46.7% 3P.

Analysis: The profile for the highly touted recruit is that of a potentially elite scorer. He can knock down shots from any spot on the floor and will be a nightmare to defend. At least, that’s the talk coming from those who scouted him in high school and his coaches who have loved what they’ve seen from him since he arrived on campus. His size and athleticism likely lend themselves to helping him be at least decent as a defender and rebounder, but his strength is undeniably as a scorer. He has a ton of confidence and could end up as one of the team’s leading scorers even as a true freshman.

Jalen Wilson (@thejalenwilson)

Measurables: Forward, #10, 6’8” 220 lbs., Redshirt Junior

Stats: Last 2 Seasons: 11.4 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.9 APG, and 0.7 SPG in 66 games played (53 starts; 28.9 MPG) on 44.0% FG, 29.9% 3P, and 67.5% FT. Bonus Stat: He finished 2nd in the Big XII in rebounding last season.

Analysis: Wilson has now withdrawn from the NBA draft to return to Kansas twice. Coach Self expects him to play an even larger role in the offense following the departure of Agbaji and Braun. He is an extremely athletic and physical wing. He helps Kansas play fast and execute in transition. One of the question marks about him has been his 3P shooting, where he has historically been very streaky. This offseason, he has been working on his long-range shot extensively. If he starts hitting three-pointers with consistency, he could be one of the best, most complete players in the nation.

Kevin McCullar (@Kevin_McCullar)

Measurables: Forward, #15, 6’6” 210 lbs., Redshirt Senior

Stats: Last 2 Seasons (with Texas Tech): 10.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.7 APG, and 1.5 SPG in 49 games played (43 starts; 30.1 MPG) on 40.8% FG, 30.1% 3P, and 71.6% FT. Bonus Stat: His Defensive Rating last season would have been good for 2nd on KU.

Analysis: The Tech transfer could be the Swiss Army Knife for the Jayhawks this season. He can guard one through five and offensively, he has the ability to post up or knock down shots from outside. He’s a sneaky good passer. McCullar was a longtime fan favorite in Lubbock before transferring. He’ll likely endear himself to Jayhawks fans this season with his hard work and toughness. If he improves as a shooter, which has been his primary objective after withdrawing from the NBA draft, he’ll be another big-time weapon for Bill Self’s team.

Ernest Udeh, Jr. (@ernestudehjr)

Measurables: Center, #23, 6’10” 240 lbs., Freshman

Stats: High School (Senior Season): 13.1 PPG and 9.2 RPG.

Analysis: Despite being a little raw on the offensive end, his abilities as a rebounder and defender should earn him the role as the team’s starting center. His scoring will mostly be limited to put-backs and finishing lobs, but he is big and athletic for his size, giving him tremendous upside. The offense likely won’t go through him much, as it often did through McCormack last season, at least in his freshman campaign. Still, he gives Kansas an ability to get second chance opportunities (while denying the same to opponents) and protect the rim as well as just about anybody in the conference.

Projected Rotation Players

Joseph Yesufu (@_liljoe1)

Measurables: Guard, #1, 6’0” 180 lbs., Junior

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round-Texas Southern vs Kansas Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Stats: 2 Seasons Ago (with Drake): 12.8 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, and 1.1 SPG in 31 games played (7 starts; 24.0 MPG) on 44.2% FG, 38.4% 3P, and 81.2% FT. Last season (with Kansas), his averages per 100 possessions: 13.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.2 assists, and 2.0 steals on 34/26/70 splits and 9.3 MPG.

Analysis: Last season was a bit of a disappointment for Yesufu who was coming off a strong finish at Drake and in the NCAA Tournament before showing up at Kansas. Coach Self acknowledges that he utilized Yesufu poorly, trying to make him more of a passer than scorer which is the opposite of Joseph’s skill set and strength. This year, his focus will be getting back to being a true combo guard, who can fill it up when he’s locked in on the offensive end. He projects as the first guard off the bench.

MJ Rice (@MJrice_1)

Measurables: Guard, #11, 6’5” 220, Freshman

Stats: High School (Senior Season): 20.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 1.3 APG.

Analysis: Coach Self has raved about the explosiveness and power of Rice who is expected to eventually compete for a starting spot (perhaps the one currently projected as belonging to Dick). He is a balanced and aggressive wing who can score off the catch-and-shoot or as a driver. Rice has had knee injuries in his past but should be good to go at this point. As his conditioning improves, he could wind up being one of the more productive freshmen in the conference.

KJ Adams, Jr. (@kj_atx)

Measurables: Forward, #24, 6’7” 230 lbs., Sophomore

Stats: Last Season per 100 possessions: 12.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 2.6 blocks on 52.0% FG and 60.0% FT. He appeared in 37 games, averaging just 4.8 MPG.

Analysis: Like starters, Wilson and McCullar, Adams is viewed by the coaching staff as an interchangeable piece. A guy who can function as a small-ball five or as a traditional wing. He could be quietly one of the team’s best defenders. He plays hard, moves his feet, and doesn’t back down from anyone. His offense is still a work in progress, but if he’s improved sufficiently on that end, he should be looking at a significantly larger role this season.

Zach Clemence (@BIGZTEXAS)

Measurables: Center, #21, 6’10” 230 lbs., Sophomore

Stats: Last Season per 100 possessions: 24.4 points, 21.5 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 3.9 steals, and 3.4 blocks on 37.5% FG, 27.3% 3P, and 48.3% FT. He appeared in 24 games, averaging just 4.9 MPG.

Analysis: Clemence didn’t play much last year, due partially to injury and partially to the depth ahead of him. This year he could be looking at a much bigger role. He is an athletic defender who can step out on the perimeter and defend ball screens, switching onto smaller guards without fear. For his size, he has a soft touch that makes him a threat to become more of a stretch 5. If he can maintain any semblance of the efficiency he showed in his small sample size of playing time last season, he should be the team’s primary backup center.

Bobby Pettiford, Jr. (@BobbyPettiford)

Measurables: Guard, #0, 6’1” 190 lbs., Sophomore

Stats: Last Season per 100 possessions: 9.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.2 assists, and 1.5 steals on 53.3% FG and 75.0% FT. He appeared in 14 games, averaging 8.0 MPG last season.

Analysis: Pettiford saw his season cut short by injury that ultimately required surgery to fix an abdominal issue. The coaching staff has said that he’s feeling the best he’s felt since the injury came up. He is a pass-first point guard who rebounds well for his size. Coach Self envisions him being a starter down the road but will probably be limited to a bench role this season as he continues his journey back from the injury.

Zuby Ejiofor (@Zubyejiofor)

Measurables: Forward, #35, 6’8” 230 lbs., Freshman

Stats: High School (Senior Season): 21.7 PPG, 13.0 RPG, 1.9 SPG, and 3.9 BPG.

Analysis: Ejiofor could end up being the hidden gem of this recruiting class. Coach Self has remarked that while Ejiofor has a great frame and good shooting fundamentals, that he is probably a ways away from being ready to contribute in a meaningful way. Still, Self stated in his press conference at Big XII Media Days last week that Zuby will see action this year.

Projected Deep Bench Players

Kyle Cuffe, Jr. (@kylecuffejr)

Measurables: Guard, #5, 6’2” 180 lbs., Redshirt Freshman

Stats: High School (Junior Season): 16 PPG, 5 RPG, 3 APG, and 2 SPG

Analysis: Cuffe basically missed his senior season of high school due to COVID before redshirting last year. He is a solid scorer with plenty of athleticism. He is unproven on the defensive end and had a major knee injury that forced him to miss time. He likely won’t see major minutes in the early part of the season and will have to earn them, if he ever wants to have them this season.

Cam Martin (@Cam_martin31)

Measurables: Forward, #31, 6’9” 230 lbs., Super Senior

Stats: 2 years ago (Division II): 25 PPG and 9 RPG

Analysis: The former DII transfer likely won’t play much outside of garbage time opportunities this season.

Michael Jankovich (@michael_jank)

Measurables: Guard, #20, 6’5” 190 lbs., Senior

Stats: In his 3 seasons with the Jayhawks, he has appeared in 21 games, averaging just 2.2 MPG.

Analysis: The walk-on likely won’t see the floor much this season.

Dillon Wilhite (@dillonwilhite)

Measurables: Center, #22, 6’9” 240 lbs., Redshirt Freshman

Stats: No meaningful college experience.

Analysis: The walk-on redshirted last year and is unlikely to get significant playing time this season.

Charlie McCarthy (no known social media handle)

Measurables: Guard, #13, 6’2” 200 lbs., Sophomore

Stats: No meaningful college experience.

Analysis: The walk-on is yet to appear in a college game. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that changing any time soon.

Wilder Evers (@EversWilder)

Measurables: Guard, #12, 6’3” 210 lbs., Freshman

Stats: No college experience.

Analysis: The walk-on may not even see the floor in garbage time with so many players presumably ahead of him in the pecking order.

Outlook

Death, taxes, and the Kansas Jayhawks competing for yet another Big XII title. They have not and are not going away any time soon. This doesn’t change the fact that I am far less bullish on Kansas than most of the country appears to be. They’ll be near the top and while it wouldn’t shock me if they won the conference and made another deep run in March Madness, I think they are going to take a fairly sizable step back this year. They are extremely inexperienced and there are a lot of question marks surrounding this team. Will Dajuan be more aggressive on offense? How quickly will the incoming players adjust to the culture and system in Lawrence? Is Wilson really an alpha who can lead the team to wins over other championship caliber teams? The upside for Kansas is that they are Final Four good. The downside is probably not much worse than that they still make the NCAA Tournament, just as something lower than a 3 or 4 seed.

2. Texas Longhorns

2021-22 Record: 22-12 (finished 4th in the Big XII regular season standings; NCAA Tournament No. 6 seed; lost in the 2nd round)

Coaching: Chris Beard (entering 2nd season with program; 236-164 career record; 1 Final Four appearance)

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-Texas vs TCU Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

Overview

The first year of the Chris Beard era would probably be described by most Longhorns fans as good, not great. Despite reaching the #5 spot in the AP Poll during the year, they faded down the stretch, losing 4 of their final 5 games of the season. This year, they’ll look to start fast AND finish strong. They’ll have to do it without a handful of mainstays that departed this offseason. The Longhorns are looking to make it past the first weekend of the Big Dance for the first time since 2014, and frankly, they seem to think they can do more than that, maybe even making it as far as Houston and the Final Four.

Roster Losses

Stat Lost Production Big XII Rank
Stat Lost Production Big XII Rank
Scoring 48.3% 3rd
Rebounding 36.3% 2nd
Assists 45.3% 2nd
Steals 52.1% 2nd
Blocks 37.4% 3rd
Minutes 50.4% 2nd

The Longhorns lost 8 players this offseason including notably:

  • 2 starters (Courtney Ramey, Tre Mitchell)
  • 3 of their top 5 scorers (Ramey, Mitchell, Andrew Jones)

Roster Additions

Tyrese Hunter: Former 4-star high school prospect. Transfer from the Iowa State Cyclones. Projected to be a starter.

Dillon Mitchell: 5-star high school prospect out of Montverde, Florida. Projected to be a starter.

Arterio Morris: 5-star high school prospect out of Dallas, Texas. Projected to be a rotation player.

Sir’Jabari Rice: Former unranked high school prospect. Transfer from the New Mexico State Aggies. Projected to be a rotation player.

Rowan Brumbaugh: 4-star high school prospect out of Northfield, Massachusetts. Projected to be a rotation player.

Alex Anamekwe: 3-star high school prospect out of McKinney, Texas. Projected to be a rotation player.

Projected Starting Lineup

Metric Projected Lineup Big XII Rank
Metric Projected Lineup Big XII Rank
Career Games Played 404 4th
Career Games Started 355 2nd
Career Minutes Played 11,365 3rd
NOTE: Only Division I stats are included

Before taking a better look at the Texas roster, I think it must be said that Arterio Morris was accused of some decidedly unpleasant and potentially illegal conduct over the summer. It appears as though Morris was arrested and is now party to a court-issued protective order as a result of the activity outlined in the social media accusation against Morris. I’m frankly a little surprised that no punishment has been handed down or at least that he hasn’t been suspended pending the results of the school’s now months-long investigation. Of course, I probably shouldn’t be surprised that success on the court comes before just about everything else. It’s that way for a lot of programs. There’ve been periods of time where it was that way at Baylor. Thankfully, by all accounts, Scott Drew prioritizes having good men over good players (although lately, he tends to have guys who are both). If Morris plays, his talent is elite. If he’s suspended for part or all of the season, that’d be a significant blow to the team’s depth.

Tyrese Hunter (@hunter_tyrese)

Measurables: Guard, #4, 6’0” 180 lbs., Sophomore

Stats: Last Season (with Iowa State): 11.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 4.9 APG, and 2.0 SPG in 35 games played (all starts; 31.9 MPG) on 39.1% FG, 27.4% 3P, and 68.7% FT. Bonus Stat: The reigning Big XII Rookie of the Year led the league in steals last season and finished 2nd in assists.

Analysis: Tyrese was an absolute revelation for the Cyclones last season and a huge component of their remarkable turnaround. He now takes his talents to Austin where he’ll be asked to do a lot of the same things he did so well a year ago. He is an elite passer and defender. He is also an explosive athlete who can score in a variety of ways. Don’t be deceived by his relatively poor season-long 3P% from a year ago. Over his final 9 games of the season, he was 42.1% from beyond the arc and the likes of ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla and Seth Greenberg have recently remarked about how confident, Hunter looks as a shooter. If he becomes even a semi-reliable long-range shooter, in addition to the rest of his skillset, he’d be one of the best guards in America. Even if he remains an inconsistent shooter, he will be among the more impactful players on a very good Texas team this season.

Marcus Carr (@marcusacarr)

Measurables: Guard, #5, 6’2” 185 lbs., Super Senior

Stats: Last 3 Seasons (2 with Minnesota and 1 with Texas): 15.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 4.9 APG, and 1.0 SPG in 94 games played (92 starts; 34.4 MPG) on 39.0% FG, 33.7% 3P, and 75.8% FT. Bonus Stat: He easily had the best Assist Rate on the team last season.

Analysis: Carr emerged as one of the team’s leaders on the offensive end last season, creating for both himself and his teammates. This season, he’ll likely transition from the point back to his more natural position as a shooting guard. He can still serve as a quality secondary ball handler and offensive facilitator. It’ll be interesting to see to what extent Coach Beard staggers Carr’s and Hunter’s minutes so that at least one of them is always in the game (especially if Arterio Morris misses time or struggles). Carr is a major weapon on the offensive end. Defensively, he holds his own even if he is not as impactful on that end as he is on the other. Carr should be a strong candidate for Big XII Player of the Year.

Timmy Allen (@timmybuckets35)

Measurables: Forward, #0, 6”6” 210 lbs., Super Senior

Stats: Last 3 Seasons (2 with Utah and 1 with Texas): 15.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 2.9 APG, and 1.2 SPG in 90 games played (all starts; 33.0 MPG) on 46.3% FG, 24.5% 3P, and 73.8% FT. Bonus Stat: He finished 4th in the Big XII last season in Win Shares.

Analysis: Allen is a great wing who gets it done on both ends of the floor. The only major criticism of his game is the lack of shooting range. Still, he’s highly effective in the mid-range and can get to the basket behind his high-level athleticism. He led the team in scoring and rebounding last season while also finishing 2nd on the Longhorns in assists. His versatility and ability to guard multiple positions make him an invaluable asset for Coach Beard. Reportedly, he has spent much of this offseason in the weight room, adding functional strength which could help him take another positive step as an interior scorer, rebounder, and defender. Much like Hunter and Carr, Allen believes that he has what it takes to be the best player in the conference this season.

Dillon Mitchell (@Dillonmit_23)

Measurables: Forward, #23, 6’8” 210 lbs., Freshman

Stats: High School (Senior Season): 12.3 PPG, 10 RPG, and 1.5 BPG

Analysis: Mitchell, a McDonalds’ All-American and accomplished player from the vaunted Montverde Academy, figures to be a part of the starting lineup to begin the season. I look at Mitchell as the 2nd best incoming freshman in the conference (the top freshman will be discussed later in this preview and his name rhymes with forge). He has incredible athleticism. He’s insanely bouncy and possesses elite lateral quickness. He will posterize some of the biggest and best players in the Big XII this season (here’s hoping that Baylor’s dudes can avoid that fate this year). He also projects as a guy who will nab a ton of rebounds and will be a highly impactful defender. A word of advice for Texas’s opponents this year, do not, under any circumstances let this guy get the ball in transition and if you fail to do this, please, for the love of all that is good, clear the runway.

Christian Bishop (@Chris_Bishop32)

Measurables: Forward, #32, 6’7” 220 lbs., Super Senior

Stats: Last 3 Seasons (2 with Creighton and 1 with Texas): 8.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.6 SPG, and 1.0 BPG in 96 games played (85 starts; 21.6 MPG) on 62.9% FG, 36.4% 3P, and 60.1% FT. Bonus Stat: He finished last season as the Big XII’s 5th best offensive rebounder and 8th best shot blocker.

Analysis: Although his stats might not be as eye-popping as some of the other members of this lineup, Bishop figures to be an indispensable part of this team this season. He does the dirty work down low and is emblematic of the type of selfless, hard-nosed player that Coach Beard loves to build his teams around. He is an excellent rebounder and rim protector. He’s not a high-volume scorer, but he is an efficient low-post scorer. He’s a bit undersized to be playing at the 5 but he makes up for that in toughness and determination.

Projected Rotation Players

Arterio Morris (@deg0t)

Measurables: Guard, #2, 6’3” 190 lbs., Freshman

Stats: High School (Senior Season): 20.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 5.0 APG, and 1.7 SPG on 49% FG.

Analysis: Setting aside, for just a moment, his off-court issues, which are discussed above, Morris is an immensely talented player and if he avoids serious disciplinary action this season, he should be the team’s best player off the bench. He is an elite ball handler and passer. He attacks the basket aggressively and knows how to finish on drives. He also projects as an above-average defender who can guard multiple positions. His jump shot and decision-making need some work but make no mistake, Morris is a high-level talent and potential one-and-done candidate.

Sir’Jabari Rice (@_jabariii)

Measurables: Guard, #10, 6’4” 180 lbs., Super Senior

Stats: Last 3 Seasons (with New Mexico State): 12.5 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.5 APG, and 0.7 SPG in 80 games played (69 starts; 29.6 MPG) on 43.7% FG, 36.0% 3P, and 80.5% FT. Bonus Stat: His Win Shares would have been good for 2nd on the Longhorns last season.

Analysis: Rice is flat-out the best shooter on this team. If Hunter and Morris struggle from shooting it from distance (which wouldn’t be a huge surprise), Rice could become a massive part of the rotation and maybe even threaten to join the starting lineup. Beyond his ability to give the team some much-needed floor spacing, Rice also is an active rebounder and defender which only enhances his chances to see major minutes this season.

Dylan Disu (@DylanDisu)

Measurables: Forward, #1, 6’9” 220 lbs., Senior

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round Milwaukee- Virginia Tech vs Texas Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Stats: Last 3 Seasons (2 with Vanderbilt and 1 with Texas): 7.9 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.9 SPG, and 1.0 BPG in 75 games played (48 starts; 22.5 MPG) on 42.6% FG, 30.4% 3P, and 68.5% FT. Bonus Stat: He led the team in both Rebound Rate and Block Rate last season.

Analysis: Last season was probably a bit of a disappointment for the productive Vanderbilt transfer. This can be partially explained by the fact that he went into last season after having had major knee surgery. There has historically been some NBA buzz about this long wing who can shoot it pretty well. It’s now put-up-or-shut-up time for Disu. They may use him as a small-ball backup center or as a quality stretch four. His shooting, rebounding, and rim protection should earn him a prominent role in the rotation this season.

Brock Cunningham (@Brockolli13)

Measurables: Forward, #30, 6’5” 210 lbs., Senior

Stats: Last Season per 100 Possessions: 12.2 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 3.7 steals on 48.2% FG, 47.8% 3P, and 81.3% FT. Bonus Stat: He had the lowest Usage Rate on the team last season (among players with 100+ minutes played).

Analysis: Although Cunningham’s career stats are severely underwhelming, he has been and is an important part of the team’s rotation. He is the quintessential glue guy. His presence in the box score doesn’t even scratch the surface of telling the story of how he contributes. He is their enforcer, a gritty, tough defender and rebounder. He’s not going to take many shots (although his scoring efficiencies last year weren’t terrible) and frankly, he probably won’t have the ball in his hands much at all even when he is on the floor. Still, he does the dirty work, the thankless tasks that nobody else wants to do.

Rowan Brumbaugh (@BrumbaughRowan)

Measurables: Guard, #3, 6’4” 190 lbs., Freshman

Stats: High School (Senior Season): 13.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 4.7 APG, and 1.2 SPG

Analysis: A natural point guard, he is described as a guy who has an excellent feel for the game. Brumbaugh is a decent long-range shooter, although he should be expected to do most of his scoring in the midrange. He doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses, although he also doesn’t boast the same explosiveness or upside as a lot of his teammates. If Morris remains eligible and the guards stay healthy, Brumbaugh will likely see a relatively small role this season.

Alex Anamekwe (@1AlexAnamekwe4)

Measurables: Forward, #14, 6’5” 200 lbs., Freshman

Stats: High School (Senior Season): 10.7 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, and 1.9 BPG

Analysis: The wing comes in as the lowest rated of the Longhorns’ four incoming freshmen recruits. Don’t discount the possibility that he could see some meaningful minutes this season. He is a strong, disruptive defender. Offensively, he is capable of finishing strong near the rim but likely needs to finetune his offensive fundamentals before he’s ready to really have a big impact on this team.

Projected Deep Bench Players

Cole Bott (@cole_bott)

Measurables: Forward, #12, 6’6” 200 lbs., Redshirt Freshman

Stats: No meaningful college experience

Analysis: There is no indication that Bott is in line to see playing time beyond garbage time.

Gavin Perryman (@gavinperryman13)

Measurables: Guard, #31, 6’1” 180 lbs., Redshirt Freshman

Stats: No meaningful college experience

Analysis: Perryman will likely only get on the floor in garbage time situations.

Preston Clark (@prestonnclark)

Measurables: Forward, #20, 6’6” 210 lbs., Freshman

Stats: No college experience

Analysis: Clark will not see the floor much, if at all, this season.

Outlook

I know what you’re probably thinking. Isn’t Texas always hyped as a title contender and don’t they ALWAYS disappoint? The answer to that is, yes, of course. That doesn’t change the fact that, on paper, they look like one of the best teams in the nation and also have a coach who has seen his team make it all the way to the national title game before. This team is far more talented than that one. Are there vulnerabilities for the Longhorns this year? Absolutely. Their starting lineup features only 1 proven 3P shooter which could cause spacing problems. I’m betting, however, that Hunter is improved enough as a scorer to mitigate this weakness. I’m also betting that this defense is going to be (clears throat) the best in the Big XII and one of the very best in the nation. They will pound teams on the interior despite not having a prototypical center in their projected rotation. The biggest vulnerability of this team, in my opinion, is their ability to rebound and defend the rim. Still, they have a ton of experience, returning production, and immense talent. It pains me to say this, but Texas could be very good this season. They are Baylor’s biggest threat and it seems entirely possible at this point that, for the first time (maybe ever), the hype around this program is fully deserved.

1. Baylor Bears

2021-22 Record: 27-7 (Big XII regular season co-champions; No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament; lost in the Round of 32)

Coaching: Scott Drew aka CSD (entering 20th season at the helm; career record: 652-419; 3-time reigning Big XII Coach of the Year; GOAT)

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Basketball Tipoff William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

Overview

The Bears enter this season with expectations sky-high once again. Why wouldn’t they when they’re coming off back-to-back Big XII championships, back-to-back No. 1 Seeds in the NCAA Tournament (would have been 3 straight if COVID hadn’t forced the cancellation of the 2020 Tourney), and 81 wins over the last 3 seasons? To add fuel to the fire, Baylor returns a lot of talent in addition to bringing in a pair of impact transfers and one of the most electric freshmen in the country (adding Joshua, Dantwan, and a healthy Langston is nice too). Still, Bears fans are surely hoping for a more satisfying conclusion to this campaign than the way last year ended. Last season, Baylor could not stay healthy and also fell short of a comeback effort against the eventual national runner-up, North Carolina to be eliminated in the first weekend of March Madness.

Roster Losses

Stat Lost Production Big XII Rank
Stat Lost Production Big XII Rank
Scoring 52.0% 4th
Rebounding 48.5% 5th
Assists 61.8% 4th
Steals 59.7% 5th
Blocks 51.3% 5th
Minutes 50.8% 3rd

Baylor lost 4 player this offseason, including notably:

  • 3 starters (James Akinjo, Kendall Brown, Matthew Mayer)
  • 4 of the top 5 scorers (Akinjo, Brown, Mayer, Jeremy Sochan)

Roster Additions

Keyonte George: 5-star high school prospect out of Bradenton, Florida. Projected to be a starter.

Jalen Bridges: Former 4-star high school prospect. Transfer from the West Virginia Mountaineers. Projected to be a starter.

Caleb Lohner: Former 3-star high school prospect. Transfer from the Brigham Young Cougars. Projected to be a rotation player.

Joshua Ojianwuna: 3-star high school prospect out of Australia. Projected to be a rotation player.

Dantwan Grimes: Unranked JUCO transfer out of Kilgore, Texas. Projected to be a deep bench player.

Projected Starting Lineup

Metric Projected Lineup Big XII Rank
Metric Projected Lineup Big XII Rank
Career Games Played 311 9th
Career Games Started 186 9th
Career Minutes Played 6,431 9th
NOTE: Only Division I stats are included

Adam Flagler (@adamflagler)

Measurables: Guard, #10, 6’3” 190 lbs., Redshirt Senior

Stats: Last 3 Seasons (1 with Presbyterian and 2 with Baylor): 13.2 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.9 APG, and 0.9 SPG in 95 games played (67 starts; 28.4 MPG) on 44.1% FG, 39.5% 3P, and 81.7% FT. Bonus Stat: He finished 5th in the Big XII in Effective Field Goal Percentage last season.

Analysis: Perhaps the best piece of news coming out of this offseason was Flagler opting to run it back for another season with the Bears after exploring the option of entering this summer’s NBA Draft. He is one of just two returning starters for Baylor and should be viewed as the team’s alpha. Flagler was named unanimously by the Big XII’s coaches as First Team Preseason All-Big XII. When he gets going on the offensive end, he can completely take a game over with his ability to score at all three levels. While he has typically played the role of an off-ball shooting guard, this season he’ll likely be asked to shift into a point guard-type role. It’ll be a bit of an adjustment but he has the skill and intangibles to make it work. He’s a strong candidate for Big XII Player of the Year, and furthermore, should be a leader in Baylor’s effort to bring more hardware back to Waco this season. CSD has praised his servant attitude and leadership. He was a critical piece of the national championship team and he’ll be looking to carry over his strong finish to last season (16.4 PPG on 45/42/77 splits in his final 9 games) to start this one just as strongly.

LJ Cryer (@LjCryer)

Measurables: Guard, #4, 6’1” 190 lbs., Junior

Stats: Last Season: 13.5 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 1.7 APG, and 0.8 SPG in 19 games played (3 starts; 25.9 MPG) on 47.6% FG, 46.8% 3P, and 77.8% FT. Bonus Stat: He was the team’s leading scorer before going down with what ended up being a season-ending injury.

Analysis: Before seeing his season cut short by injury last season, LJ was the team’s leading scorer despite coming off the bench. Put simply, Cryer is a walking bucket. Forget about his size, he can score from anywhere on the floor at any time. Defenders cannot give him room to breathe unless they’re comfortable with him splashing home another shot. He could well end up leading the team in scoring this season, his first as a member of the starting lineup. It’s not just the volume that makes LJ an elite scorer, it’s the efficiency. CSD has talked about the improvement he showed last season as a defender. He’ll look to continue that this season as he tries to bounce back from the injuries that robbed him of so much playing time a season ago. Cryer may be asked to shoulder some of the ball-handling and passing burden. Although that isn’t necessarily his strength, if he can develop that part of his game, it’d make him one of the most elite offensive players in the nation.

Keyonte George (@keyonte1george)

Measurables: Guard, #1, 6’4” 190 lbs., Freshman

Stats: High School (Senior Season): 17.8 PPG on 41% 3P

Analysis: Sometimes it’s easy to get carried away with hyperbolic praise of a highly sought-after recruit like George. On the other hand, I’ve come pretty close to running out of superlatives to describe just how good George has looked on film and in GLOBL Jam. A backcourt consisting of just Cryer and Flagler would already be among the best in the nation. Throw George into the mix and it’s almost not even fair. He is the total package. He’s a knockdown 3P shooter and also an incredible force attacking the rim off the drive. He has a solid handle and also flashed some impressive court vision and passing ability in GLOBL Jam. He has the ability to go nuclear and demoralize opponents. The only concern I have about his offensive game is that if he doesn’t get favorable officiating (the Big XII is a very physical conference after all), it could frustrate his scoring production in some games. I’m betting though, that those games are few and far between and that overall, he’ll be another contender for the team lead in scoring. I also expect him to be one of the team’s better defenders. George’s lateral quickness, high IQ, toughness, and quick hands should serve him well on that end of the floor; he just has to stay out of foul trouble. He is him and Baylor fans had better enjoy his passionate and flashy play this season because he’s almost certainly here for a good time, not a long time (another potential top-10 NBA draft pick).

Jalen Bridges (@jalenbridgess)

Measurables: Forward, #11, 6’7” 230 lbs., Junior

Stats: Last Season (with West Virginia): 8.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 0.8 APG, 1.0 SPG, and 0.7 BPG in 33 games played (all starts; 26.8 MPG) on 42.8% FG, 32.5% 3P, and 82.3% FT. Bonus Stat: His Offensive Rating last season would have been 3rd best for the Bears last season (behind only Flo Thamba and Everyday Jon).

Analysis: After losing Mayer, Brown, and Sochan, we knew the Bears would be searching for a forward from the portal. They got their guy in Bridges. He has been exposed to great coaches and is all too familiar with the physicality of the Big XII. He is an above-average rebounder and defender who brings that tough-as-nails, first-to-the-floor mentality that will endear him to his new coaching staff, teammates, and fans. He probably won’t be asked to score a ton because of how good the guard play on this team should be, but he’s a capable 3P shooter and will seize on his opportunities to put the ball in the hoop. This guy has all the intangibles and skill to be one of the team’s under-the-radar contributors even if he’s not stuffing the stat sheet every night. CSD has talked about how well Bridges fits what they want to do this season and how good of a teammate he is. I’d also recommend you get to know him even more as a person by reading Branden MacKinnon’s recent sit-down with Bridges here.

Flo Thamba (@Flo_T3)

Measurables: Center, #0, 6’10” 250 lbs., Super Senior

Stats: Last Season: 6.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 0.6 SPG, and 1.0 BPG in 34 games played (all starts; 20.5 MPG) on 54.5% FG and 58.9% FT. Bonus Stat: He finished as the Big XII’s 2nd best shot blocker and 3rd best offensive rebounder last season.

Analysis: This will be Thamba’s fifth and final season playing for the Bears. He’s hoping to finish a storied career off with a bang and perhaps another ring or two on his fingers (if he has room left for any). Baylor fans know that Thamba is a great rebounder and rim protector. He’s also a great screener and roller. With the shooting this team projects to have, his ability to free up space for the guards on the perimeter will be invaluable. He also anchors the defense down low while also stepping out to guard the 3P line when asked to do so. In the presumed absence of Everyday Jon for at least part of this season, Thamba’s experience and leadership will mean even more. Thamba had a 9-game stretch near the end of last season where he averaged 10.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG, and 1.2 BPG on 56.5% FG. If he can duplicate that sort of productivity this season, it makes it even harder to imagine any team outperforming Baylor in the season-long standings.

Projected Rotation Players

Langston Love (@lhlv4)

Measurables: Guard, #13, 6’5” 210 lbs., Redshirt Freshman

Stats: High School (Sophomore Season): 23.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.5 APG, and 1.5 SPG in 32 games played on 63% FG, 39% 3P, and 88% FT.

Analysis: Langston suffered a major knee injury in a scrimmage just before the start of last season which robbed him of a chance to play as a true freshman. He was cleared to return to action recently, after missing much of the summer workouts and the team’s games in GLOBL Jam. He will play early on, but CSD has suggested that it may take him a while to shake off the rust and acclimate to playing D1 ball for the first time. His minutes may be relatively low in the early going as they try to bring him along slowly. I’m betting, however, that once he’s up to speed he’ll be a major part of the best guard rotation in America. His reputation is as an elite 3P shooter. He’s built like a fullback, stout and strong. If he’s got confidence in his knee holding up, I expect him to be a physical defender and rebounder. Healthy, he should be the team’s sixth man and a darn good one at that. As with Bridges, you should check out Branden MacKinnon’s sit down with him to get an even better sense of the type of dude Love is.

Dale Bonner (@dalebonne)

Measurables: Guard, #3, 6’2” 170 lbs., Redshirt Senior

NCAA Basketball: Texas at Baylor Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Stats: Last Season per 100 Possessions: 10.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and 2.9 steals on 33.7% FG, 19.2% 3P, and 74.1% FT. Bonus Stat: His Assist-to-Turnover Ratio of 1.88 was 2nd best on the team behind only James Akinjo.

Analysis: Bonner (or Big Dale as a certain managing editor, and others, has tabbed him) returns for his 2nd season with the Bears. I don’t think anyone, including Bonner, thought he’d see as much playing time as he did a year ago. That’s what happens with injuries though and it could turn out to be a good thing for him this season. He has considerable Big XII experience now and got a good idea of areas he needed to improve. He’s a feisty defender, a gifted passer, and an effective driver with the ball in his hands. He plays with great energy. In GLOBL Jam this summer, he showed improvement in the areas that most needed it. He looked more composed and collected on both ends of the floor, containing the aggressiveness that sometimes led him to committing turnovers offensively and being out of position defensively last season. Further, he looked so much more confident in his jump shot than he did last season. That’d be a huge development for a guy I expect to be firmly in the guard rotation this season.

Caleb Lohner (@caleblohner)

Measurables: Forward, #33, 6’8” 230 lbs., Junior

Stats: Last 2 Seasons (with BYU): 7.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.1 APG, and 0.5 SPG in 62 games played (44 starts; 23.5 MPG) on 43.9% FG, 27.1% 3P, and 60.9% FT. Bonus Stat: His Defensive Rebound Rate would have been the 2nd best on the team last season behind only Everyday Jon.

Analysis: Lohner projects to be Jalen’s backup although they may share the floor from time to time. Lohner comes in with a great reputation as a rebounder. At BYU he played in the post a lot and did it well. CSD has suggested that he envisions Caleb being more of a wing this season. He is a tough-as-nails competitor who won’t back down from anyone. In that way, he could play the role of Baylor’s tough guy and enforcer, sort of like Jeremy Sochan last season. Offensively, he can and will finish some thunderous dunks in addition to converting at a decent clip in the midrange. The question for him is his 3P shooting. He tends to be pretty streaky and I think the coaching staff just wants him to be smart with his shot selection when on the floor. He’s definitely a glue guy who plays with a relentless motor. He’ll see a lot of playing time and may even be utilized as a small-ball five at times.

Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (@JonathanTchamwa)

Measurables: Forward, #23, 6’9” 250 lbs., Redshirt Senior

Stats: Last Season: 8.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG, and 0.7 SPG in 25 games played (0 starts; 20.8 MPG) on 67.7% FG, 46.2% 3P (!), and 77.1% FT. Bonus Stat: He had the best Offensive Rating on the team last season. Double Bonus Stat: He is the most universally respected players in the Big XII (it’s a fact, go look it up).

Analysis: Often referred to as Everyday Jon, Tchatchoua is, has been, and will continue to be for as long as he’s at Baylor the very heart and soul of this team. This is in no way diminished by the prospect (and perhaps probability) that he misses most, if not all, of this season, recovering from multiple surgeries aimed at repairing the damage caused by a gruesome, season-ending knee injury suffered last season. CSD has acknowledged that these are uncharted waters in terms of recovery time. ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla remarked last week at Big XII Media Days in Kansas City that he would be surprised if Jon plays at all this season. Teammate, Adam Flagler, offered a somewhat more optimistic outlook in KC, saying that Jon is doing “exceptional” as well as hinting that Jon might be able to dunk right now (huge if true). As for me, I am going to operate under the assumption that Jon takes a medical redshirt this season and comes back a year from now, ready to go. If I’m wrong and he’s cleared to play this season, that’d be a massive boost for this team. Jon is quite simply, one of the most admired and respected players in the Big XII. To read more about his injury, recovery, and story, check out Branden MacKinnon’s update.

Joshua Ojianwuna (@JoshuaOjianwuna)

Measurables: Forward, #15, 6’10” 230 lbs., Freshman

Stats: Averaged 6.6 RPG in GLOBL Jam with the Bears this summer.

Analysis: As mentioned directly above, for the purposes of this preview, I am assuming that Everyday Jon will not play for Baylor this season. This means that the Bears are in need of someone to fill the role of backup center. I believe that Joshua is that guy. He has the frame and athleticism to do a lot of the things that make Jon so effective. The rebounding and mobility are easy to like. Perhaps even more impressive: his footwork, defensive instincts, and glimpses of a quality low-post scoring game. If he can become a player who’s somewhere between Everyday Jon and Tristan Clark, that’d be great. It’s no guarantee that he’ll get 100% of the minutes that Flo is on the bench (Zach Loveday exists and the CSD sometimes likes to play a small-ball lineup [Lohner and Bridges simultaneously with 3 guards for instance]), but he should be a regular (and productive) part of the rotation. Furthermore, I expect that Joshua will be a fan favorite.

Projected Deep Bench Players

Dantwan Grimes (@DantwanGrimes)

Measurables: Guard, #12, 6’2” 190 lbs., Junior

Stats: Last Season (JUCO): 12.2 PPG, 2.7 RPG, and 3.7 APG in 23 games played (19 starts; 28.7 MPG) on 42.1% FG, 37.0% 3P, and 68.4% FT.

Analysis: Grimes has been turning heads since he joined the team this summer, especially in GLOBL Jam where he averaged 7.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, and 4.2 APG on 38.9% 3P. Even so, I have him as the 6th of 6 scholarship guards on this roster and there may just not be enough minutes to go around. Much to the chagrin of a few other ODB writers who believe that Grimes could be poised to do big things as soon as this season, I think he’s probably a year away from being ready to contribute in a major way for this team. I’d expect him to play quite a bit in some of the non-conference mismatches and show off his ball-handling, speed, and scoring prowess. When it matters though, in Big XII play and in the NCAA Tournament, the rotation should shrink, and barring injury, Grimes could be on the outside looking in. Playing devil’s advocate though, if, as mentioned above, Langston Love’s role is relatively limited early on as he returns from injury, Grimes could see bigger minutes and make his case to keep them.

Jordan Turner (@JtTurner05)

Measurables: Forward, #5, 6’7” 200 lbs., Redshirt Junior

Stats: Last 2 Seasons per 100 Possessions: 20.2 points, 14.9 rebounds, and 3.5 assists on 28.6% FG, 34.5% 3P, and 66.7% FT. He has appeared in 25 games, averaging just 5.3 MPG.

Analysis: Turner is a guy who has been patiently waiting his turn for years now. He is a highly athletic wing with an impressive 7-foot wingspan. CSD has spoken about him being a role model on the team and a guy who has really improved recently after competing with great players the past few years. He averaged 8.4 PPG at GLOBL Jam. He can defend multiple positions and has shown flashes of decent scoring prowess. Still, with the talent ahead of him in the depth chart, he may still be a season away from becoming a regular part of the rotation.

Zach Loveday (@ZachLoveday99)

Measurables: Center, #32, 7’0” 240 lbs., Junior

Stats: Last 2 Seasons per 100 Possessions: 22.5 points, 15.2 rebounds, and 4.5 blocks on 61.5% FG, 42.9% 3P, and 50.0% FT. He has appeared in 25 games, averaging just 4.1 MPG.

Analysis: When Everyday Jon went down last season, it would have stood to reason that Loveday might finally get his chance to enter the regular rotation, to help take some of Jon’s 20.8 minutes per game. Instead, Flo Thamba started playing 10 more minutes per game, Jeremy Sochan started playing 7 more minutes per game, and Kendall Brown started playing 3 more minutes per game while Zach only appeared in 2 games (5 combined minutes) the rest of the season. He’s had to be patient, waiting for his chance to play. He may have to continue being patient. Thamba is the clear starter, Jon is the clear backup when healthy, and even in Jon’s absence, Joshua looks like the preferred option. Zach is the biggest player on the team and in the small sample size of playing time he’s received thus far, he looks like an excellent rebounder and solid rim protector. His Foul Rate and Turnover Rate are problematic and likely the biggest reasons why the 7-footer has yet to truly crack the rotation for the Bears.

Jake Younkin (@jakeyounkin3)

Measurables: Guard, #2, 6’3” 200 lbs., Junior

Stats: No meaningful college experience.

Analysis: This walk-on will rarely get on the floor this season.

Austin Sacks (no known social media handle)

Measurables: Forward, #20, 6’7” 200 lbs., Junior

Stats: He appeared in 7 games last season, accumulating 1 steal and 3 missed field goals in 13 total minutes.

Analysis: Another walk-on who will have to wait for garbage time opportunities to see the floor.

Outlook

It’s easy to get swept up by the hype surrounding this Baylor team and I’m here to tell you, just give in. This team has all of the pieces to compete for championships this season. What’s more, they should be a tremendously fun team to watch and root for. They are going to absolutely boat race some teams this season. They’re also going to win some tight games on clutch shots by their phenomenal guards. I doubt they go undefeated considering how stacked the rest of the conference is, but I am all in on this team being the best in the Big XII if not the best in the nation. The guard play should be ELITE. The front court is going to bully some folks down low. The depth is incredible and we know the coaching and culture are in position to keep things running relatively smoothly, even for a relatively young, inexperienced team. This offense is, in my opinion, the best in the conference by a sizable margin. Defensively, the Bears should be in the top half of the conference which ought to be good enough for them to beat any opponent they face. Limiting turnovers and maintaining good ball movement even in the absence of a dominant, natural point guard will be key, but I have no doubt that they’ll figure that part out. If they can get and stay relatively healthy, a trip to this season’s Final Four in Houston could be in store for this squad.

Conclusion

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament West Regional-Arkansas vs Gonzaga Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

These three teams are characterized by their ceilings. They are, in my opinion, the only teams in the conference that have realistic national title chances this season. They can go up against teams like Houston, North Carolina, and Gonzaga and not feel like a significant underdog. Good as they may be, the other seven teams in the conference are a step or two below these. For this top tier, if the stars align for any of them, they could find themselves cutting down the nets in Houston next April. For teams in the middle tier (TCU, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Iowa State), their best-case scenario is probably capped at competing for and MAYBE winning a Big XII championship.

Each team in this trio is a heavyweight, a force to be reckoned with. Baylor could have one of the best offenses in America while still projected as a quality defensive team. Texas has all the pieces to be elite defensively while still having a multitude of good scoring options. Kansas is a blue blood by any measure and has enough talent to make a great effort at defending both of their championships from a year ago.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am profoundly excited to be able to write about this Baylor team this season. Sic em!

Stats courtesy of sports-reference.com; njcaa.org; kuathletics.com; texassports.com; baylorbears.com; kenpom.com; 247sports.com; espn.com; maxreps.com; cbbanalytics.com; and/or shotquality.com.

Baylor Women's Basketball

Brittney Griner Freed From Russian Prison

Daily Bears Reports

DBR: Thursday, December 8th, 2022

Daily Bears Reports

DBR: Wednesday, December 7th, 2022