As I post this - Offshore lines have opened Baylor as a 6 point favorite.
Colorado fans know the Baylor Bears all too well these days, two years removed from the Big-12, CU will play their former conference mate for a 3rd time. I won’t spend time recapping what has happened; rather look at what is in store on November 8th.
The CU-Baylor game is the night cap of a 3 game set. First up at 3:00 MT are Oklahoma /Alabama, then SMU/TCU at 5:30 with Baylor/Colorado tipping off at 8:00. So there will be the biggest crowd of the day in store for the Buffs game. With 3 of the 6 teams hailing from the state of Texas, there will likely be a pro Baylor crowd at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. Waco is only 95 miles South down 35E, but as anybody who ventured down to Albuquerque two years ago knows, Baylor fans don’t exactly travel well. Couple that with the fact that #5 Baylor hosts #10 Oklahoma in a primetime Thursday night football game being dubbed as “one of the biggest football games ever played in Waco”, I’m not exactly concerned that the Buffs are walking into the lions den.
Baylor is projected to be a top tier Big -12 team, a tick below Kansas and Oklahoma St. While they did miss out on the NCAA tournament last season they were able to run the table and take home the NIT title. They also finished 29th in KenPom’s ratings and 333rd in KenPom’s “Luck” rating. (Luck rating is the deviation in winning percentage between a team’s actual record and their expected record). More on that in a minute, but a teaser – having Scott Drew as your coach basically kills any “luck” a team may have.
Baylor loses Sr Pierre Jackson running the show at the point, while he did post one of the best offensive ratings and assist rates in the country, Baylor only managed to win a single game when the game was decided by 5 points or less, dropping the other 8. How does this happen? Scott Drew… Widely noted as a terrible coach and a poor end of the game tactician, it probably shouldn’t come as a big surprise that he wasn’t able to capitalize on Jackson’s abilities. Drew has the distinction of not only being the aforementioned unlucky, he’s also on Forbes List of “Most Overpaid Coaches in 2013.” Outside of losing Jackson they do return 60% of the minutes played and 54% of their possessions.
Baylor returns Cory Jefferson at PF; a teammate of Spencer Dinwiddie on the USA World University team this summer, Jefferson had a nice summer on the World Team and also looked dominant in Baylor’s NIT Tournament run last season. He’s a 6-9 PF who posted the 13th best offensive rating in the country last year (128.1). Also returning is Isaiah Austin, he turned down the NBA and is back for another year. Austin tore his posterior labrum in one of his shoulders and wouldn’t have been able to work out for NBA teams which made a large impact on his decision to return. He was medically cleared for the start of practices and is expected to be a full go for the CU game. Rico Gathers will be the first guy off the bench to spell Austin and Jefferson, Gathers put up phenomenal rebounding numbers last year, paired with Austin and Jefferson in the frontcourt, CU will have their hands full.
Scott Drew primarily went with a 3 guard line-up last year out of necessity, that should change this year with the additions of 4* wing Ishmail Wainwright and DU transfer Royce O’Neale (O’Neale was granted a waiver to compete immediately and will not have to sit out a year). Wainwright is a defensive stopper with a developed body and will be ready to compete immediately, he was ranked top-30 overall by ESPN and Max-Preps. Royce O’Neale is a decent shooter and can get to the free throw line at a good clip, he started all 32 games for the Pioneers last year, he led them in rebounding and was 3rd on the team in scoring. The SG minutes will go to CU public enemy #1, Brady Heslip and Gary Franklin. Heslip has become a bit of a marked man since going off against CU in the NCAA tournament two years ago, he spent the summer playing for Canada in the World University Games and working on creating his own shot. Last year 98.8% of his 3’s were assisted, plan on CU keeping good tabs on Heslip, if he’s going to be launching 3’s they aren’t likely to be uncontested, CU needs to make him put the ball on the floor and make him create his own shot. Allerik Freeman , another 4*/top-100 recruit will get minutes at the 2/3 positions but he’ll have to wait a few weeks to make his debut, he injured his hand on October 17th and is out 6-7 weeks and will miss the CU game. He is more of a slasher than Heslip or Franklin, giving Drew the ability to add a more dynamic playmaker in the backcourt. Point Guard is going to be the big question mark for the Bears, losing Pierre Jackson is obviously a big hit, they’ve given 6 guys a turn at PG duties during practice, but they will likely give the bulk of the minutes to junior college transfer Kenny Chery from State Fair Community College. Chery started two seasons at State Fair CC where he was a NJCAA honorable mention All-American each year, he averaged 16.4 points and 3.7 points while shooting 45% from 3 point range, he isn’t Pierre Jackson, but he was considered one of the top Juco recruits, so he’ll likely be a serviceable PG.
How did they score?
Baylor did something near and dear to my heart last year. They shot a majority of their shots around the rim and behind the 3 point line, taking only 15.6% of their shots in the dreaded mid-range jumper area (the average DI team shot 32.8% of their shots on mid-range jumpers, while CU shot 35% of their shots from mid-range). And because of the way they scored, Baylor had one of the most efficient offenses in the country (112.6, 14th in the nation). With as much talent as Baylor has and with the number of close games they lost last year, even with Scott Drew as their coach, Baylor will likely regress towards the mean this year, and for Baylor, that’s a good thing.
So, how did CU beat Baylor last year? In the immortal words of DarthSnow…… #TadBall, protecting the paint, closing out on 3’s and forcing teams to settle for contested mid-range jumpers. I just recapped how Baylor only took 15.6% of their shots on mid-range jumpers over the course of last season, but against CU in Charleston last year they hucked up 44.1% of their shots from mid-range, only converting 42.3% of those. CU also did a great job protecting the interior, allowing Baylor to just shoot 47.1% at the rim.
Baylor is likely to open as a small favorite – I can see it as small as 1 or as large as 4, with it likely opening in the -2.5 range. Pick our points per possession flavor of choice KenPom, Nropp or Dan Hanner – they all have Baylor ranked higher than CU in their preseason polls, but I think this game comes down to two things, guard play and coaching. Baylor has a solid frontline, but so does CU; I don’t see either frontcourt being able to get the better of each other enough to make significant difference. I see this largely coming down between PG play – call me a homer – but who would our rather have running your offense, a sub-6 foot Junior College transfer from someplace called “State Fair” or 6-6 likely first round draft picker Spencer Dinwiddie? I don’t care if Chery was a highly regarded Juco transfer, in a game of pick-up Dinwiddie gets picked first. The other reason I like CU’s changes in this game….coaching. Larry Drew is entering his 11th season as coach of Baylor and in those 11 years he’s averaged being the 235th “luckiest” coach in KenPom’s rankings. Simply put, the guy doesn’t win close games. Being the first game of the season I don’t see this being a blowout, while Baylor returns 3 starters and CU 4, there will be some growing pains, so this should be a close game. Tad Boyle isn’t invincible to a bad coaching game himself, but it’s no secret that he has a certain about of contempt for Baylor and Drew, so in a close game my $ is on #RollTad.
Things to watch:
#1 – Offensive flow and movement - CU was painful to watch in the half-court for much of last season relying on lockdown half-court defense to win games. Will we see an improved half-court offense with the influx of talent? What about assists? CU was 341st in assists to field goals made last year.
#2 – Rebounding – CU loses all everything defense and rebounding Andre Roberson. I’m in the camp that CU may actually be a better team rebounding team without Dre. CU often stood around and didn’t crash the boards last year because everybody assumed Dre was going to scoop up everything in sight. The team defensive rebounding fundamentals were atrocious, will be seeing a box out this year? How many guys will CU send to the offensive boards? Will Wes Gordon’s 2nd best rebounding stats in practice last year translate to games? Baylor has an elite frontcourt and rebounders, (one of the best CU will see all season) so we’ll get an early preview of what’s in store.
#3 – Defense – We all know that Tad locks it down in the half-court, I’ve talked about how his teams protect the paint. But what about that full court press we’ve heard teased? Tad said last week that they’ll probably press more at home that on the road, but isn’t the first game of the season against a Juco transfer point guard, playing his first DI game in a NCAA arena as good of place as any to bust it out?
#4 – Where will Askia shoot from? – I went into length last season on what I perceive as one of the main reasons he struggled last year, he quit taking the ball to the rack and was settling for inefficient mid-range jumpers. I stand by that and I have this to add – Booker has got to take the ball to the rim in the transition game. Below you can see the difference in where Booker took shots from his freshman year to his sophomore year. His freshman year he took 50% of shots in transition at the rim, that dropped by 27% in his sophomore year. Booker has got to take the ball to the rim, even if doesn’t convert at any higher of a rate than his 45.5% last year he will draw fouls and get to the line where he is a respectable 74% free throw shooter.
Transition attempts occur within the first 10 seconds of possessions that start with a steal, a defensive rebound, or a made basket by the opponent. They only include the first shot of a possession.
|Year||Name||% shots at rim in transition||%made baskets at the rim coming in transition||% shots 2pt Jumpers in transition||%made 2pt Jumpers coming in transition||% shots 3s in transition||%made 3s in coming transition|