This was supposed to be the year for the Baylor Bears. The year they cemented themselves among the Big XII powerhouses, proving that their Elite 8 run in the 2010 NCAA Tournament was no fluke. The Bears were in the pre-season Top 25 in both polls, played a cupcake schedule until mid-December, and found themselves ranked as high as Number 9 in the nation. Then IT happened.
Baylor started playing real teams, with players you've heard of in conferences that get more than one bid per year. Gonzaga, Washington State, and Florida State all beat Baylor, and if you watched the games, they beat them convincingly. Monday night was no different for the Bears as they traveled to the "Little Apple" to play Frank Martin and his Kansas State Wildcats.
You'd think after playing some of their best ball of the year in a home win over Oklahoma State, Head Coach Scott Drew would be feeling good and have his squad ready to go against another pre-season Big XII favorite that is clinging to its tournament hopes. If you thought that, you thought wrong. Baylor came out flat, letting the Wildcats jump out to a 16-4 lead, and as ugly as the game was, it always belonged to Frank Martin's crew. To the Bears credit, they fought and clawed, but it wasn't to be. If this Baylor teams wants to salvage its tournament hopes, Drew is going to have to make a few critical changes.
Change 1: Mix up your defenses. After the 2-3 zone of last year confused opponents, apparently Drew thought it would work with this squad too. However, these Bears don't have the center piece of Ekpe Udoh (check the NBA), and the zone has crumbled without him. Baylor has looked uninspired on defense all year long, and even worse, it looks like they don't practice it. The 2-3 zone is giving up uncontested shot after uncontested shot, not just from 3 point land, but from all over the court. While Scott Drew has gone to the man defense this year, it looks as if the Bears haven't practiced in it all year. So if the Bears aren't going to be great in any defense, why not be average in a lot of them. Drew should think about not only running the 2-3, but setting up in it many times down court before switching into other defenses. The Bears could start in their typical positions before matching up in a man, or even extend the defense into the look of a 1-3-1. The truth of the matter is, Drew's defense couldn't stop my intramural team, so something HAS to change.
Change 2 : Run an offense. Its simple: have set plays to get your best scorers (Dunn, P. Jones, Acy) open looks, and call them when you need a big basket. Other than that, have some "sets" in which you run some sort of motion, working the ball around the perimeter, getting the ball inside, creating opportunities for confusion and open shots (Maybe someone should show Drew this website: http://www.coachesclipboard.net/Animations.html --it's completely devoted to running plays). Instead the Bears mosey down court, pass the ball around 30 feet from the basket, try to get the ball in a position to score and often turn the ball over. Baylor turns the ball over more than any other "Big 6 Conference" team, turning the ball over on over 23% of their possessions. This is as much to blame on Drew as anyone else, because he isn't putting the players he has in a position to succeed. (This leads to an interesting talk about how good Tweety Carter actually was. I'm convinced that his Senior year he actually coached the team. Drew needs either a GREAT lead guard, or some very intense coaching lessons from any other D1 coach.)
|Baylor Guard Stargell Love
Change 3 : Play Stargell Love more. Seriously, how could it possibly hurt. A.J. Walton has eight games this year in which he has more turnovers than assists, including his last three in a row. That is pathetic for a point guard, and it trickles down to the rest of the team. Baylor has an assist to turnover ratio of .77 (7 assists for every 10 turnovers), which is second worst among "Big 6 Conference", behind Wake Forest. While you must put some of this blame on Scott Drew for not running a competent offense, Walton is also making TERRIBLE decisions on fast breaks (Killed all momentum against Kansas by throwing an AWFUL lob pass to Lace Dunn, LACE DUNN!). Love on the other hand came out and gave the Bears great energy, scoring 11 points on just six shots, and had as many turnovers as assists (2). Love adds another dimension to the Bears back court; he is quick, explosive, and does a wonderful job of getting into the lane to create his own shot. Love is only a freshman, and the more action he sees in the Big XII, the better he will play as the season wears on.
Change 4 : Tell Anthony Jones to be aggressive, or get him off the court. Anthony Jones is a man of mystery, it appeared he wasn't even in Manhattan on Monday until he drove baseline for a dunk towards the end of the game. When Jones doesn't look to attack, he makes terrible passes. Baylor fans can surely remember Jones throwing lackluster passes to teammates with a defender draped all over them, which leads to easy buckets at the other end of the court. Drew needs to toss his jacket, walk over to Anthony Jones and remind him he is a match-up nightmare. A 6'10" three guard should be able to score at will, especially one that was recruited out of a premier high school (Houston Yates) as a shooter. Jones shot had finally started coming around (8 for 12 from 3 in the 4 games leading up to K-State) until he decided to stop taking it. Jones scored just six points on only four shots against Kansas State, and both of his baskets came in the last 1:37 of the game. Simply put, unless Anthony Jones is looking to score, he is worthless. Give the minutes to Fred Ellis (who at least LOOKS like he's playing hard), or even Nolan Dennis (Who figured out how to dribble this year).
|Baylor Head Coach Scott Drew
Change 5 : Pull Scott Drew's head out of his rear end. From the little things like using all five of your timeouts before the six minute mark of the second half, to the big things like not running an offense, Drew has looked incompetent this year. In the moment of all moments in Manhattan, J'Mison Morgan picked up his 3rd foul midway through the first half, Drew realized the situation well after he should have and a substitute went to check in too late. Morgan was forced to stay in the game, and the next time down court picked up his 4th foul, rendering him ineffective for the majority of the game (I realize some of the blame has to go to Morgan for fouling, but its the coaches job to keep a not very smart player out of bad situations). Drew's poor coaching was masked last year by a high IQ point guard (Carter) on the offensive end, and a defensive savior (Udoh) on the other end of the ball. This year with a young point guard, and no elite defenders, Drew has failed to adjust his game plan to the skill set of the players he has. If the Bears want to compete against any talented teams, then Drew is going to have to realize this isn't last year's Baylor team.
The Bears have a lot of figuring out to do if they want to see the post-season. The once-ranked team looks like a longshot for the NCAA Tournament, and if they continue their abysmal play, will be on the NIT bubble before you know it.
So here is to hoping that Brady Heslip is actually Tweety Carter painted white. Or better yet, maybe he is Jimmer Fredette.
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