Our Daily Bears is a great content generator. So much so that they were kind enough to do the heavy lifting for us and send the e-mail asking if we would like to exchange some Q&As prior to the match up tonight in Waco (8 PM, ESPNU). Below ODB blogger dfank_BU provides answers to our tough, and thinly troll worthy, questions. For our perspective over on ODB click here.
In the little I've seen of Baylor this year I have noticed one consistent issue: the Bears can't score. Kenny Cherry can have a good night at the drop of the hat, but Brady Heslip is gone, and so is Isaiah Austin. Who provides the punch for Baylor this year and is there someone on the team that can be a threat night in and night out?
Let's just say that it's been fairly hit or miss for the Bears offensively and lately it's been A LOT of miss. There are 6 or 7 guys who are capable of having good nights but there isn't an alpha male that Scott Drew can lean on when the offense bogs down. Taurean Prince has taken a huge step forward this season and leads the team with 12.1 PPG but there are 5 other guys who average at least 8 per game as well. The key seems to rest with the two senior leaders, Kenny Chery and Royce O'Neale. When those two get in a good rhythm, it tends to permeate through the rest of the team.
Another guy to keep an eye on is freshman forward Jonathan Motley. A lot of people have compared him to former Bear and current Brooklyn Net Cory Jefferson but Motley is definitely further along at this point than Jefferson was as a freshman. If he gets going early, he is capable of a 20+ point night. Overall, the Bears just need to do a better job of finishing at the rim as they've really struggled inside of 5 feet in the last two games. That will cure a bunch of their early conference offensive woes.
That 1-3-1 zone was something else in March when the team would focus on defense, but sometimes can seemingly fall asleep. Who replaces Austin in the middle as the disruptor?
This will be a slightly different Baylor zone than you've seen in prior years. Because there isn't an Isaiah Austin or Ekpe Udoh to protect the rim, there has been much more emphasis on aggressiveness on the perimeter from the guards to force the opponent into undesirable shots. You can tell that defense has been a major priority with this team so far because there haven't been the bouts of lazy play that have plagued prior Baylor teams. Opponents are shooting 38% from the field and a measly 27% from 3 point land, both noticeable improvements from 2013-14. Combine that with a solid rebounding team led by godless rebound killing machine Rico Gathers, and you have a pretty stingy defense.
Early on in Big 12 play, we've seen teams have success by working the ball along the baseline and attacking the rim at Gathers, who stands just 6'7. Motley may eventually be able to fill the rim protector role but he needs some work in the weight room before that comes to fruition so for now it's Gathers as the last line of defense. Big guys who can play away from the basket have also given Baylor some problems, which is a bad omen with Georges Niang rolling into town. It will be interesting to see if Drew has any wrinkles for an offense as dynamic as Iowa State's is.
The Bears should have taken Kansas down at home. How much of that was bad player execution vs bad end of game management by Drew?
Ugh, you had to bring up THAT game. If you follow Baylor basketball at all you know we have dealt with some absolute gut wrenching losses in recent years. Some of those can be attributed to curious coaching decisions but this one was solely on the players. Both O'Neale and Gathers missed layups that would've given Baylor the lead with 10 seconds to go. On the ensuing inbounds under the basket, the play that was drawn up worked perfectly as Motley was wide open for a lob at the rim but for some reason, Chery didn't pull the trigger on the pass and eventually turned it over.
Scott Drew has his shortcomings as far as in-game management but I do think he's a better coach than people give him credit for. He's certainly grown in his adjustment making over the years and he's still just 44 years old. The bottom line is that Drew has won 23 games per season since 2006-07 and I don't think you're going to find too many Baylor fans complaining about that.
There are no superstars on this year's Baylor team, so can they contend with the upper echelon of the Big XII or is this a rebuilding year with the expectation of still dancing in March?
The goal all along for this team has been to find a way to get back to the NCAA Tournament. Scott Drew has been to the NCAAs on 4 different occasions but never in consecutive seasons (2008, 2010, 2012, 2014). I don't think this is anything more than a middle of the pack team in an absolutely ferocious Big 12 but that will probably be good enough to be playing meaningful games in March given the surprisingly strong non-conference slate that Baylor put together.
Baylor got a 6 seed in the Big Dance last year with just a 9-9 conference record so 8-10 may be good enough to make a return trip. If the Bears can find a way to avoid some of the long scoring droughts that have been problematic, they should be in good shape.
And now your turn for a game prediction!
I really don't like this matchup for Baylor given their recent offensive struggles. Baylor will keep this game close at home but something tells me the Cyclones will hit one too many big shots down the stretch for the Bears to be able to pull this out at home. Iowa State 68 Baylor 64.
Thanks to the guys over at Our Daily Bears for taking the time to indulge us!