Coach: Scott Drew
Years at school: 10 (154-124 all-time)
Best NCAA Tournament finish: Elite Eight (2012 and 2010)
|Vital Info: No. 20 Baylor|
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Last season's record: 30-8 (lost to Kentucky in the Elite Eight)
Notable returnees from last season: Pierre Jackson, Brady Heslip, Deuce Bello
Notable losses from last season: Quincy Acy, Quincy Miller, Perry Jones
Notable newcomers: Isaiah Austin, L.J. Rose, Ricardo Gathers
Projected starters: G: Pierre Jackson G: Brady Heslip F: Deuce Bello F: Isaiah Austin C: Cory Jefferson
Why this team will be good: It's a Scott Drew Baylor team, so you know they're athletic as all get out. More specifically, it's a deeper group in the backcourt; there's more experience there and in talking to Drew, he's really excited about his guards' ability to drive this team. They'll probably play faster, too, as this team will probably want more freedom and less stodgy offense. He wants Jackson and Heslip create on the fly. But don't get me wrong: It won't be absolutely wild or some late-'80s LMU-type O. The team won't look to press and the young components to this team will prevent it from totally being up-and-down all the time.
Why else? It's a Scott Drew Baylor team, so you know the recruiting class is really nice. Austin is the big stud, the five-star recruit, the latest lanky and athletic big at Baylor with an NBA future. I'm not huge on his game, but I'm in the minority. Austin can shoot it from beyond 15 feet, and when he really tries to mix up his game, you can see why scouts get so giddy.
Ricardo Gathers is so strong, can really run the floor. When you see him you'll think he should be on the football field instead. He initially committed to St. John's before deciding Waco was cooler than Queens.
Then there's Rose, a borderline top-75 guy who is a tremendous passer and take cares of the basketball. Baylor has played multiple point guards in the past and he could end up playing alongside Pierre for a lot of minutes this season, but he'll likely back him up in non-conference play.
Why this team might disappoint: Less height and less depth. And more inexperience in the frontcourt. Drew's teams tend to ping and pong between being reliant on the front court or the back court. When it's the former, the teams are usually pretty solid. Acy's presence, aggressiveness and leadership cannot be overstated. That was a man playing college basketball for four years and his presence will be immediately missed. Plus, when you see Kansas loaded with talent, then yeah, comparatively, they could disappoint in that realm, too.
Bottom line: Surefire NCAA tournament team with tons of room to grow. Overall, it's hard for Drew to have teams disappoint. There's a feeling of expectation with these teams that goes like this: finish top four in the conference, win 25 to 30 games in a fun way, then flirting with the Final Four. If that happens, all is well. Because this is Baylor, and for a long time, Baylor was perhaps the worst major-league program in the sport. Now it's a new world. Drew's concocted a machine, and a fun one to watch. I only hope it's not a soft team. Jackson will probably prevent that from happening. Let him go and there won't be but one or two defenders in the country who can pin a hip on him.
Quote from an opposing coach in the league: "Other coaches might, but I don't really care to hate on Baylor. I expect them to again be a force and compete for the league championship. They return the preseason player of the year at point guard in the conference in Pierre Jackson. Brady is one of the most accomplished shooters in the league. You combine talented freshmen like Isaiah and Ricardo Gathers -- and they're pretty damn good. Gathers is a relentless, physical, tough athletic rebounder. Super-impressive. He could be starting by the end of the year. The best teams that win have great guards and Baylor has the best backcourt returning of anyone in the conference."