Baylor Basketball: 4 Things the Bears Must Improve Before the Tournament
Baylor had the game under control—for the first ten minutes at least. After that, the Kansas Jayhawks stole the show and humiliated the Bears on their home court.
Baylor was expecting a high seed in the NCAA tournament and that goal is still attainable, but not if the Bears play the way they did against Kansas and the four games prior to their third loss of the season.
The following is a list of the top four things that Baylor must improve in order to go deep in March.
Play with 40 Minutes of Morale
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It is one thing to play strong basketball for 40 minutes, but if the morale of the team is not on a par with the talent, success will be limited.
It seems as though every time the Bears take the court, one mistake leads to another and suddenly every player is in a stupor for a good amount of time.
The Kansas game is a perfect example.
Baylor had a 10-point lead with 9:41 left in the first half and was dominating the Jayhawks. Then Kansas pulled itself together and found a way to go into halftime with a three-point lead, coach Drew called this “the beginning of the turning point.”
His Bears never found the momentum after that, sinking only 37 percent of field goals, shooting just 25 percent on three-point attempts, and recording a deplorable 57.1 free throw percentage.
It seemed as though after Baylor began missing free throws, its heart was just not in the game. That resulted in several missed opportunities, turnovers, sloppy ball-handling and wasted possessions.
Baylor has to question why a few mistakes almost always lead to such a drastic change in attitude for a team stocked with so much talent that should have the ability to play from behind.
If the Bears cannot keep their heads up against other top 10 teams, there is little chance of success in the tournament.
Play Aggresively at All Times
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Most college basketball fans know about Perry Jones III, the most well known Baylor basketball player. The main criticism of his game is the fact that he either cannot or will not play aggressively, which is unacceptable for someone his size. He still finds ways to put point on the board, but not in the way most teams would want a strong post player to.
Overall it seems as though a number of Bears have grown apprehensive in the past couple of weeks when it comes to performing in their specific roles.
Four out of the five starters have seen their offensive productivity decrease in their last five games. Watching a Baylor game, one cannot help but notice the fact that this is a product of the players questioning their plays.
Brady Heslip, one of the best three-point shooters in the league, no longer attempts the contested three-point shots that he made earlier this season. Quincy Acy, a ferocious dunker, hesitates on jump shots more than he has to, creating time for defenders to apply more pressure. Quincy Miller, a highly sought after freshman, has not played with his usual tenacity lately, allowing opponents to easily defend multiple poor shots.
It seems as though this team needs to take a lesson from Pierre Jackson. Whenever Jackson is on the court he plays all out. He can sometimes get too wild with the ball, but at this point Baylor should welcome this type of aggressiveness over the trepidation it has been playing with.
Find a Leader Fast
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It is hard to imagine a top tier team not being able to identify a single leader on its squad.
Thomas Robinson and Marcus Denmon are easily recognized as Baylor’s Big 12 rivals’ leaders for Kansas and Missouri, respectively.
Yet, for Baylor, one would be hard pressed to pinpoint a player who takes the reigns and does not let go.
During nonconference play, Brady Heslip embraced the role, rallying his team while trailing and encouraging them to pull out a victory. For a while it seemed as though Quincy Miller was the leader of this offense, but not recently. Even with Pierre Jackson it is not apparent whether he is leading the offense or just running plays.
Baylor Nation and the college basketball world probably expect Perry Jones to be the captain of this team, but even he cannot claim the title.
Head coach Scott Drew needs to have a serious discussion with his players about the importance of leadership on a team. Playing cohesively and as a single unit are essential traits for any team, but the importance of a standout leader cannot be underestimated.
Find the Forwards
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This may sound like a rehashing of aggressiveness, but the fact of the matter is the effectiveness of Baylor’s forwards has dropped drastically.
This is not in reference to their points per game or rebounds (a statistic which Baylor has seriously improved on), but rather the fact that the Bears do not have a serious threat at the forward position.
Perry Jones is not seen as a powerhouse by other teams. Quincy Acy is extremely dangerous with an open court in front of him and in single coverage, but he can doubt himself and not make the best attempts at the basket when he is under a lot of pressure. Quincy Miller started the season on a a very promising note, but has since dropped off and even lost his temper at points.
Looking down the bench, Anthony Jones plays a good amount of his time on the perimeter and outside of the paint. Cory Jefferson has a great deal of potential, but does not see enough time to reach it.
On defense, not a single forward is standing out. Acy records a couple blocks per game, sometimes helped by Jones, but that does not change the fact that the Bears do not have a game changing forward on the defensive side of the ball.
Before this season progresses much further, Baylor is going to have to utilize the depth of these big players on both sides of the ball in order to beat the other elite teams.