Breaking news, rankings, predictions and analysis all in one place.

Scouting the Contenders 2020: Baylor Bears

MaCio Teague, Baylor
As March Madness slowly inches closer and closer, "Scouting the Contenders" takes a look at some of the nation's best teams in a chaotic race, scouts their strengths and weaknesses, and takes a best guess on just how far they could go in the NCAA Tournament. We begin with the nation's current No. 1 team, the Baylor Bears.

Track Record

  • 20-1 overall record, 9-0 in Big 12
  • Notable Wins: 87-78 over Villanova, 63-58 over Arizona, 53-52 over Butler, 67-55 over Kansas
  • Only loss to Washington, 67-64 (12-11 record)
  • First No. 1 ranking since early 2017
  • 19 consecutive victories

Scouting Report
In a season where the narrative in college basketball is that there is no National Title favorite, the Baylor Bears certainly look like they could take up the mantle. The Bears have now won 19 straight games, with their only loss on the season coming against Washington in their second game of the year. It hasn't been like they're beating up on inferior foes either; during that span, they've beat five ranked teams, including beating Kansas by 12 in Phog Allen Fieldhouse. That dominance has helped them lock down the No. 1 ranking in the country, locking down 49 first-place votes in the latest AP Poll.
Strengths: Veteran-laden teams are a rarity in the world of modern college basketball, but those that do have the experience tend to have a significant advantage over the rest. That appears to be the case in Waco, who is led by a group of players who have been in the program for a number of years. In fact, only one freshman has seen minutes at all this season for the Bears, Jackson Moffatt, who has seen a total of 10 minutes the entire season. Leading the charge for BU is sophomore Jared Butler, senior Freddie Gillespie, junior Mark Vital and junior MaCio Teague. A lot of these guys have been through the rigors of the lengthy college basketball campaign, and have played in March before. That is huge in any league, and in any region of the bracket. It has to be considered the most notable strength of this team...The other thing that really jumps out at you with Baylor is their length and size. There are no seven-footers on this roster, but at every position, they can plug in guys with size and toughness, giving them an edge on both sides of the court. It enables them to play a very physical brand of man-to-man defense. You'll notice any team that tries to attack Baylor off the dribble has to work for every inch, and they force you to run your offense far away from the hoop. There are five different players on this roster that average at least one steal per game, because they are able to use that length to get in the way of passing lanes, and create turnovers... Defense as a whole really sets the stage for the Bears. That isn't to say that their offense can't be explosive when it needs to be, but BU is at their best when their defense is playing well. Coincidentally, that defense has been superb all year, which might just be the reason they sit at 20-1. The Bears allow just 58.4 points per game, which comes in fifth nationally. It isn't like they don't see good offenses in the Big 12, but they are just so tough to score on. Their ability to push you out to the perimeter and force you to shoot the three-ball has been effective all year. College teams just aren't able to hit the three ball consistently enough to score against this team. Even if they are able to get down low, Gillespie ends up cleaning up a lot of possessions, averaging 2.3 blocks per game on the season.

Weaknesses: Nobody is going to question the great job that Scott Drew has done leading the Baylor basketball program. When he took over in the early 2000's, this program nearly got the NCAA's "death penalty", but Drew has built them into a consistent winner in the always-tough Big 12. With that being said, the NCAA Tournament hasn't been kind to the Bears under Drew. They did make two Elite Eight in a three-year span from 2010-2012, but since then, they haven't been back. That isn't to say they haven't won Tournament games, but Drew has been simply out-coached in a few of their March losses. He's proven himself as a superb recruiter and a strong developer of talent, but can he win more consistently on the sport's biggest stage? This team will tell us a lot... When compared to some of the other teams battling it out for a No. 1 seed, this Bears squad pales in comparison with how they shoot the three-ball. They aren't a terrible shooting team, but their top three scoring guards, Butler, Teague & Mitchell, all shoot below 40% from downtown. That might not be considered these guy's strengths, and others on the team are shooting the ball well, such as Devonte Bandoo, who hits on a 43 percent clip from three. Yet, it still is worrying in the world of modern college basketball when a team simply doesn't have great numbers from three. Baylor hasn't really needed to have great numbers this year, but what happens when they run into a hot shooting team come March? It's reasonable to have questions about if they're able to keep up... Simply put, you'd think the craziness of this college basketball season would catch up with the Bears at some point. That isn't a weakness for this Baylor team, and it doesn't mean that they are going to be upset early in the NCAA Tournament. However, their remaining schedule is full of trap games, beyond the already difficult matchups with West Virginia and Texas Tech. Road trips to Texas, Oklahoma and TCU will all be interesting. Losing there won't kill Baylor's season, but it could certainly knock the Bears off the one-seed line.

Bottom Line: There is no perfect team in college basketball this season, there never is. But, with an imperfect field of teams, Baylor stands near the top as one of the strongest. Their experience, depth and length are very impressive, and they have a proven resume. The fact that Baylor has only been to the Final Four once in their entire history makes me a little bit wary of locking them in to make a deep Tournament run, but history shouldn't disqualify a great team from going deep. I feel much more confident about this Bears squad than most of the rest currently sitting on the 1-2 seed lines. I think that an Elite Eight trip at the very least seems like a reasonable expectation, if they can continue this current play.

No comments:

Theme images by LUGO. Powered by Blogger.