You may have seen the three-part Big XII Mega Preview (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) that’s been released over the past few weeks. Now starts another multi-part series that will be released in the coming days. This is not intended to be as much of a deep dive as the Mega Preview because Baylor is only going to face each of these teams once and Baylor is not competing with them in season-long standings. So, not every player on these teams is going to be covered. Instead, I’ll try to give a glimpse of what Baylor will be up against in their non-conference slate. I expect that closer looks for most if not all of these non-con opponents will be put out leading up to those matchups during the season. Still, this should serve as a jumping-off point for familiarizing yourself with the coming foes this season.
Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils (November 7, 2022, at 11:00 AM CT in Waco, Texas; Streaming on ESPN+)
2021-22 Record: 2-26 (only wins came by a combined total of 4 points and 5 overtimes)
Coach: George Ivory (entering first season with program [as HC]; played for MVSU in the 80s; 2 winning seasons in 13 years as the coach at Arkansas-Pine Bluff; former Harlem Globetrotter)
The Delta Devils are 47-230 (.170) over their last 10 seasons. This is a program that saw 3 NCAA Tournament appearances from the mid-80s to the mid-90s but has made the Big Dance just twice in the last quarter century and none in the last decade. Now under the leadership of a familiar name at head coach (in addition to having a new athletic director), MVSU is looking to turn things around.
Projected Starting Lineup
Measurables: Guard, #11, 6’3” 175 lbs., Senior
Stats: Last 2 Seasons: 11.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.8 APG, and 1.0 SPG in 43 games played (30 starts; 28.7 MPG) on 37.3% FG, 32.0% 3P, and 76.3% FT.
Analysis: Collins is an established scorer and facilitator. He has questionable ability on defense.
Measurables: Guard, #12, 6’2” 170 lbs., Junior
Stats: Last Season (JUCO): 9.9 PPG, 2.7 RPG, and 3.3 APG.
Analysis: Projects as a quality secondary playmaker.
Measurables: Forward, #2, 6’7” 210 lbs., Junior
Stats: Last Season (JUCO): 14.3 PPG and 6.2 RPG.
Analysis: Gibson is probably the most athletic and versatile player on the team.
Measurables: Forward, #5, 6’8” 220 lbs., Junior
Stats: Last Season (JUCO): 6.9 PPG and 7.1 RPG
Analysis: He’s a stretch four who will start primarily due to his rebounding ability.
Measurables: Center, #35, 6’9” 245 lbs., Sophomore
Stats: Last Season: 2.7 PPG and 3.9 RPG in 27 games played (20 starts; 15.7 MPG) on 53.8% FG and 57.1% FT.
Analysis: The young big is a good offensive rebounder and a physical presence down low.
Key Rotation Players
Measurables: Forward, #1, 6’6” 210 lbs., Junior
Stats: Last Season (JUCO): 11.3 PPG and 4.8 RPG.
Analysis: Mosley is another athletic wing who should be one of the first players off the bench.
Measurables: Guard, #10, 6’0” 175 lbs., Junior
Stats: Last Season (JUCO): 8.1 PPG, 2.7 RPG, and 2.9 APG.
Analysis: Likely the first guard off the bench, the smallish point guard is characterized by his quickness and defensive ability.
Measurables: Guard, #3, 6’0” 170 lbs., Junior
Stats: Last Season: 5.8 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 1.6 APG, and 1.0 SPG in 24 games played (6 starts; 18.5 MPG) on 29.4% FG, 22.6% 3P, and 87.5% FT.
Analysis: An undersized, yet feisty defender who has yet to find a rhythm offensively at the Division I level.
Measurables: Center, #22, 6’8” 225 lbs., Super Senior
Stats: Last 2 Seasons (1 with Howard and 1 with Alabama State) per 100 Possessions: 13.2 points, 13.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2.8 steals, and 2.4 blocks on 45.3% FG and 71.4% FT.
Analysis: Barber is a largely unproven big who can be utilized as a power forward or an undersized center.
Key(s) to Beat
1) Limit turnovers and fouls. They are vastly inferior from a talent perspective. They cannot beat us, we just need to avoid beating ourselves.
2) Dominate rebounding margin. They have an undersized rotation. We are bigger, stronger, and faster than them, the glass should be our friend.
History: These teams have played just once before, a 32-point beatdown in 2007.
Preliminary Prediction: Baylor: 91 MVSU: 63
Norfolk State Spartans (November 11, 2022, at 7:00 PM CT in Waco, Texas; Streaming on ESPN+)
2021-22 Record: 24-7 (MEAC Regular Season Championship; No. 16 Seed in the NCAA Tournament; lost to Baylor in the First Round)
Coach: Robert Jones (entering 10th season with the program; record over last 4 seasons: 79-44)
The reigning MEAC champs bring back 4 out of 5 starters. They firmly believe that they’ll dominate their league once again and potentially run the table in conference play. They’ve got the talent and the coach to do it. The program has won 3 conference titles in the last 4 seasons and hopes to add to its trophy case this season. They’ll also look to be more competitive against the Bears than they were in last season’s NCAA Tourney, having lost by more than 30 points.
Projected Starting Lineup
Joe Bryant, Jr.
Measurables: Guard, #4, 6’1” 200 lbs., Super Senior
Stats: Last Season: 16.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 3.2 APG, and 1.4 SPG in 31 games played (all starts; 32.5 MPG) on 43.2% FG, 34.8% 3P, and 91.5% FT.
Analysis: The reigning MEAC Player of the Year has been a consistent star over the last few seasons, but really exploded last year. He can and will do it all. Containing him will be key.
Measurables: Guard, #0, 6’2” 180 lbs., Junior
Stats: Last Season: 8.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 2.5 APG, and 0.9 SPG in 25 games played (21 starts; 23.3 MPG) on 42.0% FG, 40.5% 3P, and 68.7% FT.
Analysis: He’s more than just a long-range sharpshooter. He defends well and is capable of playing with or without the ball in his hands.
Measurables: Forward, #5, 6’6” 200 lbs., Junior
Stats: Last Season: 6.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, and 1.6 APG in 30 games played (13 starts; 24.1 MPG) on 42.8% FG, 31.7% 3P, and 66.7% FT.
Analysis: A do-it-all type wing who rebounds well and can run the offense in a pinch. The coaching staff expects him to shoot it better from distance than he did last season.
Dana Tate, Jr.
Measurables: Forward, #21, 6’7” 220 lbs., Super Senior
Stats: Last Season: 9.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG, and 1.1 APG in 27 games played (20 starts; 25.1 MPG) on 45.6% FG, 42.5% 3P, and 72.9% FT.
Analysis: The stretch four was a huge part of the Spartans’ success in their conference tourney last season.
Measurables: Center, #30, 6’9” 230 lbs., Super Senior
Stats: Last Season: 11.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.9 SPG, and 1.2 BPG in 31 games played (31 starts; 27.4 MPG) on 71.1% FG and 53.9% FT.
Analysis: He is an excellent rim protector and rebounder, in addition to being a highly efficient low-post scorer.
Key Rotation Players
Measurables: Guard, #31, 6’5” 200 lbs., Redshirt Junior
Stats: Last Season: 5.3 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.8 APG, and 0.9 SPG in 19 games played (1 start; 13.4 MPG) on 36.0% FG, 17.6% 3P, and 66.7% FT.
Analysis: He saw limited playing time down the stretch and missed much of the offseason with an ankle injury. If healthy, he’s likely the best and first player off the bench.
Measurables: Forward, #13, 6’6” 185 lbs., Junior
Stats: Last 2 Seasons: 3.8 PPG and 1.7 RPG in 53 games played (11 starts; 14.9 MPG) on 42.9% FG, 39.7% 3P, and 71.9% FT.
Analysis: He’s a 3P specialist who can spark the offense and help with floor spacing.
Measurables: Forward, #33, 6’6” 210 lbs., Sophomore
Stats: Last Season (JUCO): 7.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG, and 0.9 SPG on 44.7% FG, 21.6% 3P, and 59.5% FT.
Analysis: The coaching staff believes that he could eventually become the team’s best defensive player.
Measurables: Forward, #50, 6’7” 230 lbs., Junior
Stats: Last Season: 3.1 PPG and 3.5 RPG in 30 games played (11 starts; 12.5 MPG) on 51.6% FG and 59.5% FT.
Analysis: Primarily expected to be the team’s backup power forward, there’s been some indication that he has improved his previously nonexistent outside jump shot over the summer.
Keys to Beat
1) Great ball movement. The Bears assisted on 24 of 31 (77%) made field goals against the Spartans back in March. Don’t let the ball stick in any one player’s hands for too long, pass up good shots to get great shots.
2) Attack the paint and get to the line. The Bears were +11 in Free Throw Attempts in the last meeting. Watch for George and Thamba (who had 14 against the Spartans back in March) to go off.
History: The Bears are 3-0 all-time against Norfolk State, with an average margin of victory of 35 points.
Preliminary Prediction: Baylor: 87 Norfolk State: 71
Northern Colorado Bears (November 14, 2022, at 7:00 PM CT in Waco Texas; ; Streaming on ESPN+)
2021-22 Record: 22-16 (lost in the Big Sky Championship game to miss the NCAA Tournament for the 11th consecutive season)
Coach: Steve Smiley (entering 3rd season with the program; career record: 33-27)
Northern Colorado was one of the most one-dimensional teams in the nation last year. Their offense was in the top 25% of teams nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency per KenPom. Their defense was in the bottom 12% of teams nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom. This year, they are hoping to be able to use some added height and strength to bolster the struggling defense while maintaining the ability to score efficiently behind great guard play.
Projected Starting Lineup
Matt Johnson II
Measurables: Guard, #2, 6’2” 190 lbs., Super Senior
Stats: Last 2 Seasons: 13.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 3.4 APG, and 0.7 SPG in 60 games played (all starts; 33.8 MPG) on 47.7% FG, 43.2% 3P, and 81.0% FT.
Analysis: The former walk-on is in his 6th season with the program. He is one of the most consistent and reliable players on the team, if not the entire Big Sky Conference.
Measurables: Guard, #1, 6’4” 190 lbs., Super Senior
Stats: Last 2 Seasons: 18.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.2 APG, and 0.8 SPG in 59 games played (all starts; 32.8 MPG) on 48.5% FG, 38.4% 3P, and 80.1% FT.
Daylen Kountz!!!— The Field of 68 (@TheFieldOf68) December 16, 2021
This poster gives him 21 first half points at Arizona. pic.twitter.com/lmt47Mlfbc
Analysis: He is flat-out the best player on this team and one of the most effective scorers in the nation (he finished 10th in Division I in scoring last season). He is arguably the best guard to play in the Big Sky Conference since Damian Lillard.
Measurables: Guard, #5, 6’6” 200 lbs., Senior
Stats: Last Season: 8.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG, and 0.9 APG in 35 games played (11 starts; 24.1 MPG) on 43.6% FG, 36.1% 3P, and 75.3% FT.
Analysis: The former JUCO All-American mostly served as the team’s sixth man last season but should be a productive starter this season.
Measurables: Forward, #22, 6’9” 220 lbs., Super Senior
Stats: Last 2 Seasons (with Rice): 5.3 PPG and 2.6 RPG in 56 games played (16 started; 16.5 MPG) on 39.4% FG, 35.8% 3P, and 73.2% FT.
Analysis: Abercrombie can be used as either a power forward or a small-ball, stretch five. As a big-bodied, good shooter, he should see a ton of minutes this season.
Measurables: Center, #10, 6’11” 210 lbs., Junior
Stats: Last 2 Seasons per 100 Possessions: 8.1 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 2.2 blocks on 48.8% FG and 79.2% FT. He has appeared in 48 career games, averaging just 8.6 MPG.
Analysis: The presumed frontrunner to take over as starting center, Melvin likely won’t score much but projects as a solid rebounder and rim protector.
Key Rotation Players
Measurables: Forward, #15, 6’9” 220 lbs., Freshman
Stats: High School (Senior Season): 15.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, and 1.0 SPG on 50.4% FG.
Analysis: Another versatile big who can likely be played at the four or the five and can shoot it from the perimeter.
Measurables: Guard, #11, 6’2” 180 lbs., Sophomore
Stats: Last Season per 100 Possessions: 8.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 2.2 steals on 26.3% FG, 22.9% 3P, and 75.0% FT. He appeared in 33 games, averaging just 9.2 MPG.
Analysis: He was arguably the team’s best guard coming off the bench last season. However, the duo of Johnson and Kountz each averaged over 33 MPG last season, leaving playing time for any reserve guards hard to come by.
Measurables: Guard, #3, 6’4” 195 lbs., Freshman
Stats: No readily available stats.
Analysis: The Denver native chose the UNC Bears over offers from San Diego State and UTEP among others. Coach Smiley has suggested that he is one of the best freshman prospects to come into the program in a long time.
Measurables: Forward, #21, 6’7” 215 lbs., Junior
Stats: Last 2 Seasons per 100 Possessions: 11.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 2.0 assists on 52.2% FG, 42.2% 3P, and 66.7% FT.
Analysis: A bit turnover prone, the Texas native could see a major uptick in playing time this season. He projects as an efficient scorer and rebounder on the wing.
Keys to Beat
1) Be physical, especially against their starting guards. They have an elite backcourt duo, but very little in the way of proven depth. Get into their bench by wearing down (or getting into foul trouble) their starters.
2) Defend the 3P line. This is one of the sneakiest good 3P shooting teams Baylor has on the schedule, preventing open looks from outside will be critical.
History: This will be the first-ever meeting between the UNC Bears and the Baylor Bears.
Preliminary Prediction: Baylor: 95 Northern Colorado: 78
At first glance, these look like three automatic wins against cupcake opponents. That might be true of the Delta Devils, but the Spartans and UNC Bears are sneaky good. Throw into the mix that Baylor will, like virtually all teams, look rusty early on and that Baylor’s rotation should consist of 2 true freshmen, 3 transfers, and 2 guys returning from serious injuries, and it becomes clear that Baylor cannot afford to overlook any of these teams. I’m not all that worried about beating this trio of opponents, but I do think that at least 1 of these games will be closer than it’d be if it were played later in the season, once Baylor has found its groove. Still, I am just thrilled to be able to watch some real basketball in a matter of mere days. Sic Em!
Stats courtesy of sports-reference.com; njcaa.org; mvsusports.com; nsuspartans.com; uncbears.com; kenpom.com; 247sports.com; espn.com; maxreps.com; cbbanalytics.com; and/or shotquality.com.