2010-11 RTC Class Schedule: Baylor Bears

Posted by zhayes9 on August 19th, 2010

Zach Hayes is a editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.  To see the entire group of 2010-11 Class Schedules, click here.

Continuing our Big 12 theme after a breakdown of Kansas and Texas, let’s dissect the Baylor Bears on their quest to accomplish what Butler did this April: play a Final Four in their home state.

Drew has led Baylor out of the Big 12 basement

Team Outlook: Baylor head coach Scott Drew lost two indispensable components to any successful college basketball team this summer with the graduation of senior point guard/assist machine Tweety Carter and interior defensive force Ekpe Udoh to the NBA Draft. Replacing the leadership and experience of Carter coupled with Udoh’s double-double tendencies in the post usually means a giant step back for a program that’s not considered a hoops powerhouse. Mass defections in the Big 12 help the cause, but expectations for 2010-11 are really not all that different from a season ago. It’s entirely possible blue chip freshman Perry Jones can equal or surpass the production of Udoh, and A.J. Walton showed enough glimpses of potential during his freshman year that the loss of Carter won’t sting so harshly. LaceDarius Dunn opting to return also helps plenty. Drew and this Baylor program have reached the point where reloading, rather than rebuilding, is the name of the game.

Non-Conference Schedule Rank (ranked 1 thru 10, 10 being the most difficult): 5.5. For a team trying to enter the upper echelon of the Big 12 on a consistent basis, it’s a tad surprising Drew didn’t opt to challenge Baylor more during the non-conference slate. Baylor’s schedule looks like a walk in the park relative to Kansas, Texas or Kansas State, but there are some frisky teams on the docket just prior to Big 12 competition. Baylor will participate in ESPN’s 24-Hour Hoops Marathon with a mid-afternoon tilt against a La Salle team not expected to contend in the Atlantic 10. Their assigned game in the Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood Series is a home date with Arizona State, a squad projected to be near the bubble this season. In fact, the Bears don’t leave Texas until the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu where they’ll face either Mississippi State or Washington State after likely dispatching of San Diego in the quarters. Either Butler or Florida State may wait for the final. The jewel of the non-conference schedule is a matchup with Gonzaga in Dallas on December 18.

Cupcake City: The frosting is a bit too heavy on Baylor’s cupcake for my liking. Drew loaded the slate with a plethora of teams the Bears should run over. These opponents include Grambling State, Jackson State, Lipscomb, Prairie View A&M and Bethune-Cookman prior to the Gonzaga meeting and Texas Southern and Morgan State just before Big 12 play, seven teams mired in the dregs of Division I. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the February 15 breather against Wayland Baptist. Was Texas Pan-American not available? NJIT? It’s one thing to throw in a handful of semi-talented mid-majors, but these are mostly teams in the MEAC and SWAC. I’m not sure how scheduling these games do Baylor, a team that returns a fair chunk of talent, any good. If anything, the committee will penalize the Bears come Selection Sunday with all of these wins against sub-300 RPI squads.

Toughest Early Season Test: The nationally televised clash with Gonzaga in Dallas (a doubleheader at the home of the Mavericks with Texas A&M taking on Arkansas in the undercard) is the prize of the early season portion of the schedule. Gonzaga returns four starters from a squad that won another WCC regular season title and is projected to finish in the top 20 this year. The Baylor frontline of Quincy Acy, Perry Jones and Anthony Jones should have a difficult time containing the Gonzaga attack of versatile threat Elias Harris and seven-footer Robert Sacre. The Zags also boast Steven Gray, a capable outside shooter that can stretch the Baylor defense and open space for Harris and Sacre to operate. Going up against Gonzaga in the non-conference is dangerous. They need these RPI-boosting victories playing in a conference that doesn’t provide many tests.

Hardest Big 12 Stretch: The Bears Big 12 slate is fairly well balanced. There isn’t a three or four game stretch that really stands out as overly difficult. There is a portion of contests in the middle of conference competition in which Baylor plays four of six on the road, two of those games coming against Kansas State and Texas. These other roadies are at Oklahoma and at Texas A&M, the latter always posing a difficult atmosphere to leave with a victory despite personnel losses suffered by the Aggies. The Kansas State and Texas clashes will be the stiffest tests of the entire season for Baylor. If they can knock off either of these teams (remember, Kansas State did lose three home games last season), it could give the Bears a leg up in the cutthroat race for the Big 12 title. Baylor also faces Colorado and their two-headed monster of Cory Higgins and Alec Burks, a team they lost to in Boulder last January.

Easiest Big 12 Stretch: As long as Baylor doesn’t trip up too badly in the non-conference schedule, they could build some really nice momentum with three of their first five Big 12 games at home and their two road visits to Texas Tech (mildly dangerous) and Iowa State (doormat). Out of Oklahoma, Kansas and Oklahoma State, the teams heading to Waco during this stretch, only the Jayhawks pose a threat. Despite the losses of Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry, Kansas is still primed to be a contender in similar fashion to the year post-Chalmers, Rush and Arthur. Whether Marcus Morris can contribute against the long and talented Baylor frontcourt will be a storyline to watch. A 5-0 start to Big 12 play prior to the trip to Manhattan is a reasonable expectation.

The favorite to lead the B12 in scoring: LaceDarius Dunn

Best Individual Matchup: Any game involving Missouri and their full court press has excitement written all over it, but I’m looking forward to seeing the Tigers’ Kim English and Baylor’s LaceDarius Dunn attempt to one-up each other in the scoring column. These are two of the highest volume shooters in the Big 12. English ranked #48 in the country in percentage of shots taken last season, barely topping Dunn and his #64 ranking on that very list. Both players are surrounded by plenty of talent to steer them to victory, but if this Missouri-Baylor clash on February 23 comes down to the wire, we could see English and Dunn light up the scoring column with frequency.

Most Challenging Road Test: The only team likely to be picked ahead of Baylor in the Big 12 preseason poll is Kansas State. This makes their January 24 Big Monday duel in the Octagon of Doom the overwhelming choice. Despite the losses of Denis Clemente and Dominique Sutton, KSU looks primed to remain in the top ten for most of 2010-11 and claim a conference title. Jacob Pullen is the best player in the conference, Curtis Kelly anchors the post and the Wildcats are one of the most rugged and physical squads in the nation. Look for them to try to bump, bruise and intimidate the Bears in their house. This promises to be a hellacious challenge for sophomore point guard A.J. Walton.

Most Anticipated Home Date: Five of the most satisfying days of any Baylor fans’ life were March 6-11 of last season when the Bears dispatched of Texas twice by a combined 34 points. Baylor caught the Longhorns during their second half freefall and pounced on Rick Barnes’ team, once in front of an electric crowd in Waco followed by a meeting in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals. It shouldn’t go without mentioning that Baylor also beat Texas in Austin when the Longhorns were rolling. Once again, Baylor will face Texas in March in front of their home fans. Take them down in convincing fashion and let the taunting begin that Baylor (yes, Baylor) owns Texas in hoops.

Upset Watch: The March 1 date at Oklahoma State is a bit worrisome. Gallagher-Iba is one of the most imposing arenas in the nation and Baylor lost 82-75 in Stillwater last season. Despite the loss of James Anderson, Travis Ford will always have his team playing at max effort. Also, could Baylor be looking ahead to either Texas or the Big 12 Tournament at this point? This game just screams potential letdown.

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