Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Baylor Basketball Preview

The Buffs will travel to Waco, TX for the final time to take on the Baylor Bears.  The Bears were a team I really liked in the preseason; unfortunately for their fans, the quality of last year's Elite 8 run looks to be behind the program as they've stumbled against stronger competition this year.  CU is looking to regain some of the magic that carried them a few weeks back to a quick 3-0 conference start.  The Battle of 3-3 Big XII teams tips off at 11:30 AM Saturday morning.  Once again, the game will be broadcast on Attitude 2.
Relphorde and the boys look to drive past Baylor Saturday morning.  From: The BDC

As this marks the final time the men's team will face off with Baylor in regular season play, it also marks my final opportunity to say farewell to the lone private school in the conference.  Baylor has always seemed out of place in the Big XII.  They were forced placement in the conference when the old SWC broke up, and I'm sure most everyone would admit that Arkansas or TCU would've made a more intriguing entrant into the conference than the often-time lowly Bears.  Pointing this out to any Baylor alum will immediately start a war of words.

It's no small point that most Baylor fans are sensitive about their place amongst their rivals; afterall, they owe their inclusion not to merit but back-door Texas politics.  That same politics (dirty tricks, back-room deals, big-wig pressure, etc.) saved them again as they were one of the leading voices trying to keep some version of the Big XII together (or at least stick with Texas and the rest of the Big XII South teams).  Lucky to have survived the conference break-up (I'd have put money on them ending up in Conference USA) they're probably the only remaining non-UT Big XII school to be happy to be where they are next year (Iowa St is just trying to be as quiet as possible, hoping to find a good spot purely from some other big conference taking pity on them).

So farewell, Baylor; I hope you are able to come up with another slimy political plan to save your ass when UT morphs into mecha-UT in a few years.

Click below for my Preview

Opponents season so far - Much like Nebraska, the Bears protected themselves by not playing a true road game in non-conference play.  They're one of the few teams in the nation to have a worse non-conference strength-of-schedule than CU.  Coach Scott Drew must have known there would be a letdown from 2010 as he kept the Bears close to Texas for much of November and December.  Their only venture out of the state prior to Monday's loss at K-State was a tournament trip to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic.  Coach Drew has also found room in the conference portion of the conference schedule to shoehorn in a visit from the vaunted Pioneers from Wayland Baptist.  I make fun of the Florida Gators football team for refusing to leave the state, but some of these Big XII teams could teach them a thing or two about how to soft-pack a schedule (CU included).
Baylor hasn't ventured far from home this year.

Statistically, Baylor is a pretty average big XII team.  Kenpom has them rated in the top-55 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.  Weirdly for a team with such an "efficient" offense, they lead the league in turnovers per game (16/game) and don't really share the ball all that well (218th in the nation, 12.4 assists/game).  They do shoot pretty well, 48%, from the field, and avoid blocked shots very well (7th in the nation according to kenpom.

Defensively, they rely on limiting offensive rebounds to get by.  They only allow 9.4/game, which is good for 2nd in the conference.   They're also a well-disciplined team, only committing 15.9 fouls/game.  On the plus side for CU, who lit up Kansas from 3-point range on Tuesday, they are susceptible to long-range jumpers,  allowing an above-average 35% shooting from behind the arc.

Coaching - Head Coach Scott Drew is the son of Valparaiso legend Homer Drew.  Living in Chicago in 1998, I couldn't help but get caught up in his father's Valpo Crusaders run to the Sweet Sixteen.  The younger Drew was on the sidelines as an assistant to his father during the run that was built around the sharp-shooting of his younger brother Bryce.  The Drew family is well known and respected in basketball circles, and this has turned out to be a near-perfect hire for Baylor.
Coach Drew has been a Godsend for the Baptists in Waco.

Coach Drew completely revived Baylor Basketball in the wake of the '03 murder-related scandal that nearly ruined the program.  Arriving in Waco shortly after the scandal took place, he salvaged what he could from a terrible situation, jumped-started the recruiting in a big way, and made the program very respectable.  The turn-around took 4 rather shaky years, where the team finished at or near the bottom of the league each year, but the program is rolling now.  Coach Drew has taken the Bears to postseason play in each of the past 3 years, and continually gets top-level talent to commit to Baylor (which is no small feat, considering how shitty Waco is).

Key Players - Gone are two big stars from last year's Elite-8 team:  Epke Udoh and Tweety Carter.  I had thought prior to the season that the losses of Udoh and Carter would be mitigated by top-level incoming talent; this hasn't been the case, and Baylor has struggled just a bit.  However, there is still some pretty good talent left on the roster in the form of LaceDarius Dunn, Quincy Acy and Perry Jones.  There may be a performance ceiling with this team, but it isn't for lack of talent.

LaceDarius Dunn is a prime-time scorer.  The 6-4 senior guard drops 21 points a night, and is a challenge to guard at all times for opponents. He was also the team's leading scorer last year, and a primary reason I thought they'd be better than they've proven to be so far this season. Off the court, LaceDarius was accused of breaking his girlfriend's jaw, and was suspended 3 games by the NCAA.
I'd like the exceptionally talented Dunn a lot more if he wasn't also domestically violent.

6-7 senior forward Quincy Acy is a beast down low, and averages 13/8.  The downside to his game is the utter lack of an outside shot; he has yet to make a 3-pointer this season.

Combining with Acy down low is 6-11 super freshman Perry Jones.  Jones, a highly regarded prospect coming out of high school, provides numbers similar to Acy with a nightly line of 14/7.  Jones is money from the field, shooting 58%, but can struggle from the line (65%).  It might prove fruitful to play hack-a-freshman if he beats his defender to good interior positioning.

Prediction -  Last year CU was able handle the much taller Bears at the CEC.  The victory shocked me at the time, but, in that game, CU did a great job forcing outside shots and limiting Baylor's big-men as much as they could.  The Buffs also enjoyed an incredible 18-5 turnover advantage that allowed them to stay in a game where they were massively out rebounded. They also rode some incredibly hot 2nd half shooting as the buffs shot 62% from the field for the half.  It would be nice if that formula for success was repeatable this year.

I'd like to take the Buffs outright to win (I have a "feeling" about this game), but, considering the road performances of last week, and the probable emotional letdown after the Kansas loss, I can't bank on CU coming through on the road.  It'll be an interesting matchup: Baylor is pretty good at home, but they haven't really been challenged there yet (other than KU laying the woodwork to them).  This was also the case with the Nebraska game, but Baylor isn't as superlatively good in a specific area like Nebraska is on the defensive side of the ball.

In my mind this game is a toss-up, and when it's a toss-up, you should always give the advantage to the home team. However, I really liked the energy and gameplan of the KU game, and I feel if CU can somewhat contain the Morris twins, they should also be able to hold back Acy and Jones.  It'll also take another barrage from 3-point land, which I think CU can continue with.  Riding my "feeling," I'll say CU finds a way to win and keeps the season alive.  CU 76 - BU 73



D. Jake said...

this has nothing to do w/ Buff hoops.... but there's a growing chance the Nate Solder could be a Chicago Bear. I like that.

RumblinBuff said...

I've been secretly hoping for that. I told a friend of mine last year that if the Bears got him that I would immediately buy his jersey.

The Bears could certainly use him to shore up that pathetic O-line.