Big 12 Preview: Baylor Bears

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 6th, 2013

This week, the Big 12 microsite will finish previewing each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: Baylor. 

Where We Left Off: They were playing for their NCAA Tournament lives late last season. Baylor faced a tough test in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament against Oklahoma State — not to mention an 18-point halftime deficit. They managed to trim the Cowboys’ lead to two with seconds remaining but Pierre Jackson’s running three-pointer careened off the mark as the buzzer sounded. The Bears, who had struggled to find consistency all season, hoped their 9-9 record in Big 12 play was enough to prove to the committee they were worthy of an at-large bid. But they were left on the bubble and had to settle for an invitation from the NIT. It was there when we saw the Baylor team most had expected in the preseason, ripping through five games to bring home the first NIT Championship for a Big 12 school. Jackson has since graduated, but a combination of players returning and the addition of several touted incoming recruits could result in a more promising finish this season.

Scott Drew loses his best player from a year ago and could possibly have a better team in 2013-14. (John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star)

Scott Drew loses his best player from a year ago and could possibly have a better team in 2013-14. (John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star)

Positives: Almost everybody’s back! Isaiah Austin put his NBA future on hold by returning to campus after averaging 13 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game as a freshman. If there was one thing the 7’1″ Austin could improve on this year, it’s his outside shooting. It’s weird saying that about a center but the outside shot is a potentially lethal weapon of his offensive arsenal (33 percent from three-point range in 2012-13). The most important player returning is Cory Jefferson because his play usually indicated how competitive Baylor was in big games. I attended Texas-Baylor back in January and saw firsthand the kind of monster Jefferson can be when he’s playing his best. His 25 points and 10 rebounds were a big reason why the Bears won that day and went 13-3 in games where Jefferson scored at least 15 points. The best trait of these Bears is their frontcourt. In addition to Austin and Jefferson, Rico Gathers at 6’8″ and 270 pounds was a space-eater on the floor who scored the same amount of points as he did rebounds per game (5.7) off the bench. Their recruiting class also brought in four-star guard/forward Ish Wainwright (6’6″, 245 pounds) of Missouri who turned down offers from Ohio State, St. John’s and Texas to come to Waco; three-star big Johnathan Motley (6’9″, 210 pounds) of Houston decided to come to Baylor despite offers from Marquette, Oregon, Wichita State and his hometown school, Houston. News also came down within the last week that Denver transfer forward Royce O’Neale (11.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG in 2012-13) has been granted a waiver and will play immediately. This might be the best frontcourt in America. Everybody’s favorite Canadian sharpshooter Brady Heslip is also back for his senior season and fellow countryman Kenny Chery is expected to step in as the starting point guard.

Negatives: Pierre Jackson is gone. He was the heart and soul of the team, leading the Bears in minutes played, points, assists and spectacular plays, although I’m sure that last one isn’t a real stat. Another big loss is A.J. Walton, who wasn’t a big offensive presence but did serve in better roles as a second distributor and designated defensive stopper. Who will emerge this year to guard guys like Marcus Smart or quick guards like Naadir Tharpe or Buddy Hield? It might have to be Gary Franklin. With all their depth at the forward and center positions, there are five pure guards on the team and freshman Allerik Freeman‘s hand injury stretches those guards even thinner until his likely return in late November or early December.

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Baylor Dominates Lehigh In Season Opener 99-77

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 9th, 2012

If you the chance to watch this game live (illegal stream!), there are two words to best describe Baylor’s victory.

Good. God.

Pierre Jackson (#55) and Isaiah Austin (#21) had a grand ol’ time stomping on Lehigh Friday afternoon. (Associated Press/Rod Aydelotte)

The Baylor frontcourt had their way with the Mountain Hawks. Cory Jefferson scored 26 points, pulled down 13 rebounds (five offensive) and a couple blocked shots. Every time I looked up at the game, he was on the receiving end of alley-oop after alley-oop. Pierre Jackson played like the preseason player of the year that he is with 14 points and 12 assists. Super frosh Isaiah Austin scored 22 points on 10-for-12 from the field, including two threes in just 17 minutes. Four minutes into the second half, Austin made a turnaround jumper, stepped on a Lehigh player’s foot and went to the floor. He did not try to put any weight on it when helped off the court. He did not return.

We all remember Lehigh beating Duke as a #15 seed last March. They were picked to repeat as Patriot League champions in large part due to C.J. McCollum coming back for a senior season. Today, he seemed to be the only guy playing for them, scoring 36 points, grabbing eight rebounds to go along with three steals in 38 minutes. The Bears shot 62% from the floor while the Mountain Hawks hit 37% of their attempts. Next up for Baylor is a match-up with Jackson State Sunday afternoon at the Ferrell Center.

I know it’s one game, so I’m trying to keep the superlatives to a minimum.

But man…

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Baylor Secures Commitment From Four-Star Center Dominic Woodson

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 1st, 2012

Sigh, just another day on the recruiting trail for Scott Drew.

Earlier today, the Baylor coach received a verbal commitment from 2013 center Dominic Woodson. Woodson (a 4-star recruit according to Rivals and ESPN) attends famed Huntington Prep in West Virginia but is originally from Round Rock, Texas. There’s no doubt distance played a role in his decision. He was down to Baylor and NC State, so having the chance to play at a still rising program just 90 minutes from his home seemed like an easy choice to make. The news was first reported by Evan Daniels of Scout.com

Woodson joins an already stacked recruiting class in Waco. (Davide Depas)

Woodson is the latest in a recent line of big men to commit to Scott Drew. This may be a reach but if Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson and Rico Gathers all decide to return to school next season along with Woodson, Ishmail Wainwright and Jonathan Motley coming in, the Bears could very well have the biggest and most talented set of big guys in America. “It’s close to home, a great academic school and has a great coaching staff. And [there's] a chance to win a championship,” Woodson told Scout.com.

After all these years, it’s crazy to hear the word “championship” associated with Baylor basketball.

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Big 12 M5: 10.19.12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 19th, 2012

  1. WE GOT OURSELVES A COUPLA FEUDIN’ COACHES AT BIG EAST MEDIA DAY! Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino coach teams that do not play in the Big 12, obviously. But a reporter at Big East Media Day asked Boeheim about Rick Pitino saying the additions of Memphis and Temple to the Big East will “more than make up for” the losses of Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse. Jimmy B responded by saying that Pitino was full of, uh…”Schmidt” if he said that and added that if he were in the Big 12 “like he wanted to be,” he’d call them the best league. OH SNAP! Pitino responded to Boeheim’s quote by saying Boeheim was also full of “Schmidt.” While understanding the loss of Syracuse isn’t ideal, Pitino remained optimistic about the new teams coming next season. I think it’s only a matter of time before Louisville will be a member of the Big 12 but man I wish I was at Big East Media Day! If you’re a reporter going to one of these things, you could only dream of hearing something other than PC statements and coachspeak. It makes them seem like regular people.
  2. Calling fouls in the paint are probably the toughest thing to do if you’re a college basketball official. So Curtis Shaw, supervisor of officials for the conference, shone a little light on the issue and laid out how this league will rule on such fouls. I’m not a fan of coming out and saying how refs are going to rule on this because now teams are going to practice charges in a way to get the bang-bang plays to go in their favor every time. If I were Shaw, staying quiet and keeping everything ambiguous maintains a balance within everyone in the league.
  3. Can you keep a secret: The freshmen in the Big 12 are pretty good. The Oklahoma State Cowboys, Texas Longhorns and Baylor Bears are all quite similar. Opposing coaches like them to finish in the top-third of the league and now they each have players on the Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Watch List. Seems like everything that’s been said about how much Marcus Smart can make an impact has already been said, but not enough has been said about Texas’ Cameron Ridley and Baylor’s Isaiah Austin. Remember how epic DeJuan Blair vs Hasheem Thabeet was, before they played against each other and Thabeet was found to be nothing more than a tall stiff? Yep, it’ll be just like that. But better.
  4. Speaking of the Baylor Bears, it received a recent commitment from 2013 forward Ishmail Wainwright.  The former Missouri commitment considered St. John’s, Texas, Ohio State, and Baylor in his final four. In this Rumble in the Garden link, the Johnnies seem to have been the favorites to land the wing but Wainwright becomes the second big-time talent to have seriously considered St. John’s to end up with Baylor (Ricardo Gathers is the other). If you think Baylor recruiting hasn’t truly gone national yet, then you are sadly mistaken.
  5. The 2007-08 Kansas basketball team will be inducted into the Kansas Athletics Hall of Fame during K Club and Homecoming Weekend next week. This is hardly a shock. The Kansas-Memphis national championship game gave college basketball one of the better ends to the season in recent memory. It won’t be long before Bill Self has his own Hall of Fame induction ceremony, KU and the Basketball HOF included.
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