By Greg DeVries
For a while, it seemed like Baylor athletic teams could not lose. On the road in one of college basketball’s most difficult venues for visitors, though, the Baylor men finally fell to the Kansas Jayhawks.
With 18 games in the books and 13 left on the schedule, not to mention the Big 12 Conference Tournament and postseason play, now is as good a time as any to take a look at where this team stands.
The Bears are currently second in the Big 12 behind Kansas. Losing at Allen Fieldhouse is something most visitors experience, as Kansas is 62-4 at home against current conference opponents under coach Bill Self.
The loss to Kansas might raise some concerns. The Bears shot 46 percent in the loss, but 23 of their shots were 3-pointers. For a team that has the length and inside presence that Baylor does, this many shots from the outside certainly raises an eyebrow.
When a team shoots 3-pointers early and often, it makes the game easy for the opposing defense. Even with ball movement around the perimeter, long shots are low percentage shots. The 3-point shot opens up by virtue of the post game.
Giving the ball to players in the post collapses the defense into the paint.
When this happens, sharpshooters like sophomore Brady Heslip can get the ball with an open look on the perimeter.
Baylor’s inside game is strong and this will provide a catalyst for the outside game.
Sophomore Perry Jones III has a skill set that feeds into this style. At 6-foot-11, Jones III can demand the double team from defenses.
“He’s not an ‘I’ guy,” head coach Scott Drew said. “If someone else is hot or if someone is feeling it, he gets as excited about somebody else scoring or making plays as he does himself.”
But this is a small flaw in a team with so many positives. Perhaps the most prominent of these is Baylor’s bench play.
“Our greatest strength is our depth,” Drew said.
“Everybody was just clicking since we first met,” freshman Quincy Miller said. “We always hang out together, go to the movies, do stuff off the court and that helps us on the court. We’re athletic, strong, fast [and] quick. We’ve got a lot of firepower. Somebody different steps up every night.”
Another feature of this year’s team is their high shooting percentage. As a team, the Bears are shooting nearly 49 percent from the field. Considering the fact that the Bears have a 3-point mentality, this is a high percentage.
Because of great individual skill, Baylor is a tough matchup for every team.
A road loss to Kansas does not mean much in the grand scope of the season. Winning the Big 12 Tournament and making the Final Four in New Orleans are still realistic and attainable goals.
“Everybody knows their role on the team, but we’re just focused on doing what we have to do to win,” Heslip said.