Welcome to part 3 of the non-con preview series. Looking at the Baylor Bears’ non-conference slate, there is one matchup that all fans should have had circled since it was announced. There’s only one rematch of the 2021 National Championship game on the schedule. It will be a meeting of 2 excellent teams with high powered offenses. While we have you, we’ll also look at the Big XII-Big East Challenge and the Coast-to-Coast Challenge matchups (and another buy game).
Marquette Golden Eagles (November 29, 2022, at 7:30 PM CT in Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
2021-22 Record: 19-13 (finished 5th in the Big East regular season standings; No. 9 Seed in the NCAA Tournament; lost to North Carolina in the First Round)
Coach: Shaka Smart (entering 2nd season with the program; career record: 291-155; 1 Final Four appearance; 2-10 record as a HC against Baylor)
The start of the Smart Era at Marquette was a good one. The team finished with a winning record in conference play for just the third time in the last 9 seasons and made the NCAA Tournament. They’re looking to build off that success as Coach Smart tries to cement the program culture that made him successful at VCU. After losing the team’s top 2 players from last season, there seems to be mostly tempered expectations for the team this season. The Golden Eagles are at 5-2 with their only losses coming to top 30 teams (per KenPom) by a combined total of 8 points.
Projected Starting Lineup
Measurables: Guard, #11, 6’3” 190 lbs., Junior
Stats: 9.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 7.9 APG, and 0.7 SPG in 7 games played (all starts; 29.0 MPG) on 41.2% FG, 42.9% 3P, and 81.3% FT.
Analysis: Despite shooting it relatively poorly last season, Kolek was one of the most efficient and productive passers in the Big East last season. Coach Smart is no doubt glad to see that in year 2 with the program his overall productivity is jumping up, closer to where it was for him as a freshman at George Mason.
Measurables: Guard, #1, 6’4” 195 lbs., Sophomore
Stats: 13.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 2.1 APG, and 1.3 SPG in 7 games played (all starts; 27.4 MPG) on 42.0% FG, 29.8% 3P, and 80.0% FT.
Analysis: Jones established himself as an excellent shooter, especially from outside, as a freshman. The coaching staff wants to see him improve in other areas, as a playmaker, defender, and leader.
Measurables: Guard, #4, 6’2” 195 lbs., Sophomore
Stats: 7.7 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.4 APG, and 1.4 SPG in 7 games played (all starts; 22.6 MPG) on 43.2% FG, 35.0% 3P, and 64.3% FT.
Analysis: As a freshman, he made a bigger impact on defense than on offense. Coach Smart has remarked about Mitchell shooting it with more confidence over the summer, leading to a strong start to his 2nd season with the team.
Measurables: Forward, #12, 6’8” 230 lbs., Junior
Stats: Last Season: 12.7 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 0.7 APG, and 1.4 SPG in 7 games played (all starts; 26.1 MPG) oin 54.7% FG, 31.3% 3P, and 66.7% FT.
Analysis: The former Clemson transfer is already a stout defender and is growing in his confidence on the offensive end. The coaching staff views him as a leader on this team.
Measurables: Center, #13, 6’10” 215 lbs., Junior
Stats: 10.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.1 SPG, and 2.0 BPG in 7 games played (all starts; 28.3 MPG) on 61.8% FG and 41.2% FT.
Analysis: Ighodaro is more skilled than most centers. He brings quickness and passing ability. Coach Smart has said that he envisions Idhodaro bringing the ball up the floor on occasion and coming off pick and rolls. He probably won’t take many, if any, three-pointers, but in every other way, he’s a modern big.
Key Rotation Players
Measurables: Forward, #23, 6’7” 220 lbs., Sophomore
Stats: 10.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 0.7 APG, and 0.6 SPG in 7 games played (off the bench; 18.6 MPG) on 44.2% FG, 42.1% 3P, and 92.9% FT.
Analysis: Coach Smart has said that next to Kam Jones, Joplin is the most gifted scorer on the team. I expected Joplin to be a starter in the preseason but he is playing his role as the team’s sixth man quite well in the early goings this season.
Measurables: Guard, #5, 6’4” 195 lbs., Freshman
Stats: 5.6 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.6 APG, and 1.1 SPG in 7 games played (off the bench; 17.0 MPG) on 46.7% FG, 26.7% 3P, and 77.8% FT.
Analysis: He’s described as a versatile wing who can defend multiple positions and is highly effective converting in transition. There’s some question about the quality of his decision making but that should improve throughout the season.
Measurables: Guard, #22, 5’10” 175 lbs., Freshman
Stats: 6.1 PPG, 1.1 RPG, 1.4 APG, and 0.7 SPG in 7 games played (off the bench; 15.7 MPG) on 45.5% FG, 23.1% 3P, and 58.8% FT.
Analysis: The young undersized guard has come on strong so far this season, earning a prominent role in the rotation.
Measurables: Center, #21, 6’11” 220 lbs., Freshman
Stats: 2.6 PPG, 1.1 RPG, and 0.6 BPG in 7 games played (off the bench; 8.4 MPG) on 31.8% FG, 14.3% 3P, and 66.7% FT.
Analysis: He is very quick for a player his size and Coach Smart says he gets off a lot of shots. He was teammates with Baylor’s Joshua Ojianwuna last season in Australia.
Keys to Beat
1) Sprint back on defense. Coach Smart likes to push the tempo and this team will want to attack quickly. Preventing easy buckets in transition and settling into good half-court defensive sets will be critical for the Bears in this game.
2) Beat the press. I expect that Marquette will utilize at least some full-court pressure defense. The Bears have the guard talent to beat the press, they’ll just need to remain locked in and show good judgment and discipline on each possession.
History: These programs have faced off just once before, a 4-point overtime victory in 1999.
Preliminary Prediction: Baylor 84 Marquette: 67
Gonzaga Bulldogs (December 2, 2022, at 7:00 PM CT in Sioux Falls, South Dakota)
2021-22 Record: 28-4 (WCC regular season champions; WCC tournament champions; No. 1 Seed in the NCAA Tournament; lost in the Elite Eight to Arkansas)
Coach: Mark Few (entering 24th season with the program; career record: 658-129; 2 Final Four appearances; has never missed an NCAA Tournament)
The Zags have reached the top spot in the AP Poll in each of the last 4 seasons. They’ve also made 7 consecutive Sweet 16s. They’ve struggled however to get over the hump. They certainly haven’t lacked in talent, featuring 9 NBA draft picks since 2015, including back-to-back seasons with a player drafted in the top 5 overall picks. This is the first time since 2019 that the Zags are not the preseason AP #1 team in the nation (coming in at #2). Maybe this will be their year. But they may have to go through the Bears more than once to get it done. As of now, the Zags have lost twice in the early season (to Texas and Purdue by a combined 37 points). If the season ended today (with Gonzaga at 5-2) their season winning percentage would be the lowest for the program since 1997.
Projected Starting Lineup
Measurables: Guard, #11, 6’2” 180 lbs., Sophomore
Stats: 9.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 3.3 APG, and 0.5 SPG in 6 games played (all starts; 26.8 MPG) on 48.9% FG, 44.0% 3P, and 100.0% FT.
Analysis: Hickman won the starting job after showing the ability to run the offense last season coming off the bench.
Measurables: Guard, #45, 6’3” 185 lbs., Super Senior
Stats: 12.8 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, and 0.5 SPG in 6 games played (all starts; 29.8 MPG) on 43.9% FG, 50.0% 3P, and 93.8% FT.
Analysis: The veteran guard plays with great speed and when he gets hot, he can carry the offense. He’s a good secondary ball handler who complements Hickman nicely.
Measurables: Forward, #0, 6’7” 205 lbs., Junior
Stats: 14.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.5 SPG, and 0.7 BPG in 6 games played (all starts; 33.5 MPG) on 45.9% FG, 46.4% 3P, and 83.3% FT.
Analysis: Strawther would have been drafted had he not withdrawn to return to Spokane for another season. He has great versatility and should be the team’s most balanced contributor.
Measurables: Forward, #22, 6’8” 225 lbs., Senior
Stats: 7.8 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.7 SPG, and 0.7 BPG in 6 games played (all starts; 26.7 MPG) on 58.1% FG, 22.2% 3P, and 69.2% FT.
Analysis: Another long, versatile forward, Watson is finally fully healthy. He is a talented defender and the coaching staff expects him to take a big step forward this year.
Measurables: Center, #2, 6’10” 235 lbs., Senior
Stats: 20.3 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 3.5 APG, 0.7 SPG, and 1.2 BPG in 6 games played (all starts; 33.5 MPG) on 59.8% FG, 14.3% 3P, and 56.7% FT.
Analysis: Widely considered one of the best big men in the nation, Timme is likely the team’s most important player. He played a lot of power forward last season alongside Chet Holmgren. This year, he’s primarily be back at the five.
Key Rotation Players
Measurables: Guard, #5, 6’4” 180 lbs., Redshirt Senior
Stats: 5.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 0.7 APG, and 1.2 SPG in 6 games played (off the bench; 20.7 MPG) on 44.8% FG, 33.3% 3P, and 75.0% FT.
Malachi Smith (@maliworld11) is the reason Gonzaga could be a preseason #1 once again. He and Timme may be the best offensive duo in the country. Highly efficient guard who gets buckets with his eyes closed. Excited to see him on a bigger stage. pic.twitter.com/11w5F0qEEl— JC Moore (@JCMoore_) July 24, 2022
Analysis: A big-bodied point guard, who has undeniable scoring ability in addition to being a good rebounder and defender. I expected him to be a starter in the preseason, but he’s fitting in well as the team’s first player off the bench.
Measurables: Guard, #5, 6’5” 180 lbs., Sophomore
Stats: 4.0 PPG and 2.8 RPG in 6 games played (off the bench; 15.2 MPG) on 37.5% FG, 28.6% 3P, and 80.0% FT.
Analysis: Coach Few feels like Sallis is an excellent fit in the lineup as a shooting guard who can guard multiple positions knock down open shots.
Measurables: Center, #15, 7’0” 240 lbs., Sophomore
Stats: 2.7 PPG and 1.8 RPG in 6 games played (off the bench; 5.8 MPG) on 77.8% FG and 50.0% FT.
Analysis: The coaching staff likes his physicality and rim protection. He hasn’t seen big minutes yet this season, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see his usage start to rise as the year goes on for the Zags.
Measurables: Center, #33, 6’10” 225 lbs., Sophomore
Stats: 2.8 PPG, 2.2 RPG, and 0.8 BPG in 5 games played (off the bench; 7.2 MPG) on 36.4% FG, 33.3% 3P, and 100.0% FT.
Analysis: Gregg has emerged as a serious competitor for backup big minutes this season behind his strong performance in the limited playing time he has seen to this point.
Keys to Beat
1) Settle. Everyone on both sides should be sufficiently amped for this game. Gonzaga will also probably want to get out in transition and attack early in the shot clock. Baylor needs to slow things down and take the Bulldogs out of their preferred rhythm.
2) Talk it out. The Zags will likely try to play through Timme in the paint quite a bit. Dig, double, and rotate to keep the mustachioed big from getting it going. Communication on the defensive end will be a big factor throughout the game.
History: Baylor stomped the Zags in the last meeting (which was fairly memorable).
Preliminary Prediction: Baylor: 85 Gonzaga: 81
Tarleton State Texans (December 6, 2022, at 7:00 PM CT in Waco, Texas)
2021-22 Record: 14-17 (finished 8th in the WAC regular season standings; was only the program’s 2nd season playing at the Division I level)
In just their 2nd season since joining the illustrious ranks of Division I basketball, Tarleton has deliberately scheduled some of the toughest teams in the nation in their non-conference schedule. Last year, they played Kansas, Gonzaga, and Michigan. This year, their biggest non-conference challenge will be the Bears. Coach Gillispie is trying to build this program into something special by testing his guys against the best out there. As of the publish date, Tarleton is sitting at 3-3 with an upset win over Boston College and their losses coming by a combined total of 22 points.
Projected Starting Lineup
Measurables: Guard, #3, 6’4”, Junior
Stats: 6.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.2 APG, and 1.8 SPG in 6 games played (5 starts; 25.3 MPG) on 50.0% FG, 75.0% 3P, and 53.3% FT.
Analysis: The leader of Tarleton’s tough defense, he applies great pressure on the perimeter. He’s also a solid facilitator. His scoring efficiencies are a bit inconsistent which is something he’ll be looking to improve this season.
Measurables: Forward, #23, 6’6”, Junior
Stats: 11.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.5 APG, and 2.0 SPG in 6 games played (all starts; 21.7 MPG) on 44.7% FG, 47.1% 3P, and 76.9% FT.
Analysis: The highly decorated JUCO transfer has looked good early, contributing in a variety of ways.
Measurables: Guard, #13, 6’6”, Redshirt Senior
Stats: 7.3 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 2.8 APG, and 1.2 SPG in 6 games played (all starts; 32.8 MPG) on 46.9% FG, 16.7% 3P, and 72.2% FT.
Analysis: Daniel’s stats might not jump off the page, but make no mistake, the coaching staff LOVES this kid. He is a glue guy who does so many things to help his team win and is described as the shining example of a selfless teammate. It helps that he shoots and defends pretty well.
Measurables: Forward, #4, 6’6” Junior
Stats: 5.0 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 0.7 APG, and 0.7 SPG in 6 games played (5 starts; 13.8 MPG) on 37.5% FG, 23.5% 3P, and 66.7% FT.
Analysis: He struggled to get on the floor for the Bobcats last season but is another versatile wing that Coach Gillispie has used primarily as a starter.
Measurables: Forward, #2, 6’6”, Junior
Stats: 22.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 3.0 APG, and 1.5 SPG in 4 games played (all starts; 35.0 MPG) on 47.1% FG, 25.0% 3P, and 69.0% FT.
Analysis: You may have noticed that none of the starters are 6’7” or taller. Hicks is not a natural post player, but he’s had to be out of necessity in his first couple of seasons with the Texans. He’s another one of those do-it-all type guys and likely will lead the team in a number of statistical categories this season.
Key Rotation Players
Measurables: Guard, #5, 6’5”, Junior
Stats: 9.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 0.7 APG, and 0.8 SPG in 6 games played (off the bench; 22.8 MPG) on 38.0% FG, 37.5% 3P, and 73.3% FT.
Analysis: The JUCO transfer has been the team’s best player coming off the bench, serving as yet another versatile wing who can play a variety of positions and styles.
Measurables: Guard, #14, 6’0”, Junior
Stats: 4.0 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 0.8 APG, and 1.3 SPG in 6 games played (off the bench; 15.0 MPG) on 47.6% FG and 66.7% FT.
Analysis: The team’s backup point guard, Hopkins has a reputation as a great perimeter defender. His offensive ability is still a question mark at this point.
Measurables: Forward, #33, 6’7”, Sophomore
Stats: 5.6 PPG, 3.4 RPG, and 0.6 BPG in 5 games played (1 start; 11.6 MPG) on 50.0% FG.
Analysis: The JUCO transfer has had a promising start to his Division I career and looks like a strong candidate to remain firmly in the team’s regular rotation.
Measurables: Guard, #12, 5’10”, Junior
Stats: 4.8 PPG, 0.5 RPG, and 1.0 APG in 4 games played (off the bench; 10.8 MPG) on 41.7% FG.
Analysis: The small Chicago native has given the team some good minutes early on after transferring in from the JUCO ranks.
Measurables: Guard, #1, 6’5”, Sophomore
Stats: Last Season: 6.2 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.8 APG, and 0.7 SPG in 31 games played (18 starts; 24.4 MPG) on 37.7% FG, 38.6% 3P, and 90.7% FT.
Analysis: McDavid came on strong during conference play, displaying his excellent shooting prowess. He was expected to play a bigger role this season.
Hasn’t played since the season opener for reasons unknown.
Keys to Beat
1) Take care of the rock. The blueprint for the Texans to be competitive here (as they were against both Gonzaga and Michigan last year) is creating turnovers with their aggressive defense. If Baylor can limit its offensive giveaways (especially of the live ball variety), they should cruise here.
2) Stomp the shrimps. The tallest starter for this team is 6’6”. Baylor should have a field day on the boards and in attacking the paint. Thamba, Ojianwuna, Bridges, and Lohner could have particularly big games.
History: Baylor is 1-1 all-time against Tarleton, with the last matchup being a win in 2008.
Preliminary Prediction: Baylor 90 Tarleton State: 57
Washington State Cougars (December 18, 2022, at 9:00 PM CT in Dallas, Texas)
2021-22 Record: 22-15 (finished 5th in the Pac-12 regular season standings; No. 4 Seed in the NIT; lost in the NIT semi-finals)
Coach: Kyle Smith (entering 4th season with the program; career record: 216-166; never been to the NCAA Tournament)
The Cougars haven’t been to the Big Dance since 2008 (when Tony Bennett was the HC). Heading into this season, Wazzu are looking to replace arguably their 4 best players from last year’s squad. The team will, this season, be characterized by size and strength. They are BIG. As of the publish date, the Cougars are sitting at 3-2 with a pair of highly disappointing losses to Boise State and Prairie View A&M. They’ve been hitting their three pointers but not a lot else has gone right for them in the early part of the season.
Projected Starting Lineup
Measurables: Guard, #24, 6’6” 200 lbs., Junior
Stats: 12.2 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 5.4 APG, and 0.8 SPG in 5 games played (all starts; 35.6 MPG) on 47.7% FG, 50.0% 3P, and 83.3% FT.
Analysis: Powell started his career at Auburn and was fantastic in the games he played before suffering a season-ending concussion. Last season with Tennessee, he barely saw the floor and struggled when he did get to play. This season, he’s looked like possibly the team’s most important player.
Measurables: Guard, #3, 6’6” 190 lbs., Junior
Stats: 14.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG, and 1.4 APG in 5 games played (all starts; 32.4 MPG) on 47.8% FG, 56.7% 3P, and 90.9% FT.
Analysis: Mullins is a 3&D specialist has carved out a spot in the starting lineup. The coaching staff expects big things from Mullins this year.
Measurables: Guard, #5, 6’5” 215 lbs., Junior
Stats: 16.0 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.6 APG, and 1.0 SPG in 5 games played (all starts; 29.4 MPG) on 52.9% FG, 56.5% 3P, and 65.0% FT.
Analysis: The team’s leading returning scorer is considered one of the best defenders on the team, if not the entire Pac-12. He can shoot it from outside and is growing in his confidence and leadership qualities.
Measurables: Forward, #11, 6’6” 215 lbs., Senior
Stats: 7.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.0 APG, and 1.0 SPG in 4 games played (3 starts; 28.0 MPG) on 40.0% FG, 26.3% 3P, and 40.0% FT.
Analysis: The son of hall-of-famer, Dennis Rodman, DJ has primarily come off the bench thus far in his collegiate career. He is finally be ready to take the next step and join the starting lineup this season. The biggest ask of this young man by the coaching staff is that he start being more aggressive and assertive on the offensive end.
Measurables: Center, #35, 6’11” 210 lbs., Sophomore
Stats: 12.2 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.6 SPG, and 1.2 BPG in 5 games played (all starts; 26.8 MPG) on 49.0% FG, 25.0% 3P, and 70.6% FT.
Mouhamed Gueye is up next❗️❗️— HIGH LEVEL (@highlevel000) June 22, 2022
He is a 6’11 forward that plays for Washington State. He can dominantly score in the paint and plays great defense. Keep your eyes out for Mouhamed as he could be one of the best bigs in the country.@rassoul_gueye @WSUCougarMBB pic.twitter.com/nglKA6Jppt
Analysis: Gueye is a long, slender big man. He can shoot it from just about anywhere on the floor and Coach Smith has expects that much of the offense this season should run through Gueye. He’s a guy who’s only been playing competitive basketball for a few years, but he’s starting to put the piece together and could be one of the best big men in the Pac-12 this season.
Key Rotation Players
Measurables: Guard, #31, 6’6” 195 lbs., Freshman
Stats: 6.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG, and 1.2 APG in 5 games played (1 start; 18.2 MPG) on 50.0% FG, 40.0% 3P, and 70.0% FT.
Analysis: The young French native has played the role of sixth man well so far this sesaon.
Measurables: Forward, #13, 6’7” 180 lbs., Junior
Stats: 4.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, and 0.5 BPG in 4 games played (off the bench; 12.0 MPG) on 35.7% FG, 16.7% 3P, and 62.5% FT.
Analysis: After missing virtually all of his first 2 seasons on campus with injury, Rosario is finally starting to show what he can do as a productive part of the rotation.
Measurables: Forward, #12, 6’9” 235 lbs., Freshman
Stats: 3.3 PPG and 0.8 BPG in 4 games played (off the bench; 6.3 MPG) on 41.7% FG and 42.9% 3P.
Analysis: Another Frenchman, this young big man has gotten to play as a reserve front-court guy.
Measurables: Guard, #22, 6’2” 175 lbs., Freshman
Stats: High School (Senior Season): 33.2 PPG, 8.5 RPG, and 5.8 APG.
Analysis: The Washington native guard, dreamed of playing for the Cougars. His dream is coming true this season he has been one of the first guards off the bench. He has a reputation as a solid scorer and passer. If he can get up to speed on the defensive end, he’ll be a productive rotation player this season.
Keys to Beat
1) Don’t go in there. As mentioned, this team has a large lineup, and we should expect to see at least some twin towers sets. This means that it could be tough sledding trying to attack in the paint. The good news is that the Bears have a plethora of guys who can light it up from outside.
2) Put your back into it. Again, this figures to be one of the best rebounding teams on Baylor’s schedule. Focusing on fundamentals and blocking out every possession on both ends of the floor will be critical. That might limit opportunities to push the tempo of defensive rebounds but it’s a lot better than giving them second chance opportunities.
History: Baylor has played Wazzu 3 times before (all within the last 15 years) and each matchup has been decided by 6 or fewer points.
Preliminary Prediction: Baylor: 79 Washington State: 67
This stretch of the schedule will be huge for the Bears. They’ll face a variety of styles and schemes. If they make it this far into the non-conference slate with 1 or fewer losses, they’ll likely be one of the top teams in the nation in the polls and have a lot of momentum as they approach conference play. Gonzaga will be a tough test but we’ve beaten those boys before and I believe we’re more than capable of doing it again. It could also be a preview of a future conference matchup if you saw the reports in the preseason about Gonzaga exploring the possibility of joining the Big XII. I say, bring it on. Sic Em!
Stats courtesy of sports-reference.com; njcaa.org; gomarquette.com; gozags.com; tarletonsports.com; wsucougars.com; 247sports.com; espn.com; and/or maxreps.com.