Feast Week Mission Briefing: Baylor in the Battle 4 AtlantisPosted by Nate Kotisso on November 23rd, 2016
Feast Week is here. To get you ready for the Big 12’s representation in the various holiday tournaments, our Feast Week Mission Briefings continue with Baylor in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Catching Up: If you really think about it, Baylor didn’t have a lot to overcome heading into this season. The Bears only lost a double-double machine to the NFL (Rico Gathers), an NBA lottery pick (Taurean Prince) and the 10th-best assist man in college basketball last season (Lester Medford)… wait a minute, they DID lose a lot. And yet, despite those enormous personnel losses, the Bears haven’t looked anything like a team in rebuilding mode, getting off to an impressive 3-0 start that includes a pounding of Pac-12 favorite Oregon. This week’s Battle 4 Atlantis is another chance for Baylor to get ready for Big 12 competition, as a loaded field awaits the Bears in the Bahamas.
Opening Round Preview: Baylor will open the tournament against VCU in perhaps a preview of the style they will see from Texas. Shaka Smart may be the architect of the full-court pressing HAVOC defense, but the Rams have continued this style of play under second year head coach Will Wade. Through three games, VCU ranks among the top 15 nationally in steal rate (13.7%), per KenPom. Compare that with Baylor’s first three opponents this year: Oral Roberts is 242nd in steal percentage; Oregon is 255th; and Florida Gulf Coast checks in at 339th. It’s clear that the dazzling point guard Manu Lecomte (16.7 PPG, 7.0 APG, 1.7 TOPG) will face his toughest opposition since arriving in Waco.
Potential Later Round Match-ups: Regardless of what happens against VCU, Baylor is in line for a second resume-building game in Atlantis against either Michigan State — one of the youngest and most talented teams in America — or St. John’s, a program on the rise with enough talented pieces to spring an upset. This is one of those tournaments that will allow the eight participating coaches to return to the United States with a very clear progress report on their teams.
Outlook: There is a feasible road for Baylor to reach Friday afternoon’s championship game. Provided the Bears get by VCU, they’ll likely face a Michigan State team that has struggled defending the three-point shot (239th nationally at 36.8 percent). However, winning the tournament will prove a much tougher chore than simply making it to the title game. Positioned on the other side of the bracket is Louisville, unquestionably the strongest team in a cluster that includes Wichita State, Old Dominion and LSU. If the Bears make it out of the Bahamas with two wins and/or a strong effort in a championship game with the Cardinals, Scott Drew would surely consider his team’s Caribbean trip a successful one.