By Matthew Soderberg | Editor-in-Chief
The Baylor men’s basketball team is off to another hot start, beginning the season with 13 straight victories for the third time in the past 10 years. The Bears are the only remaining undefeated Power 5 school.
Junior guard Jared Butler returned this season for his third year in green and gold after pondering a move to the NBA, and his presence is even more prevalent. He is averaging 16.7 points per game with 5.4 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 2.4 steals to add insult to injury to opposing teams.
He is yet again a Midseason Wooden Award Watchlist player, and when the game gets close, head coach Scott Drew and his teammates trust him to get the job done.
“One thing about Jared Butler is when the game’s on the line, his game goes to another level,” Drew said.
Junior Davion Mitchell, the next member of Baylor’s elite backcourt, remains the driving force of the Bear offense. He is averaging 12 points and six assists per game while providing some of the best on-ball defense in the country.
The final member of the renowned guard squad is senior MaCio Teague. Averaging 15 points and four boards a game, the lanky shooter is lighting up the rim from everywhere, shooting 48% from the field, 37% from deep and 86% from the line. Scott Drew says the other benefit of having Teague on the court is his relentless energy.
“MaCio’s got one of those bodies where he doesn’t really get tired, but he does so many things,” Drew said. “He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes — low turnover guy.”
Last year’s Defensive Player of the Year finalist senior forward Mark Vital and final returning starter is the do-it-all glue guy for this squad, and while averaging just five points, six rebounds, an assist, steal and block a game his defense and energy earn him one of the most important places on the floor.
Just look at his two alley-oops in Monday’s game against No. 9 Kansas. Each stopped a run by the Jayhawks and launched the Baylor offense into high gear as the 25% capacity crowd went into an uproar. Butler said his presence is the backbone of the team.
“Mark Vital is a great asset to our team,” Butler said. “He brings energy. He brings life. It doesn’t matter what anybody says. He’s always like that.”
Finally, Baylor has one of the most prolific bench mobs in the country, with its top-three minute-earners (sophomore guard Adam Flagler, sophomore forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and junior wing Matthew Mayer) scoring 27.1 points per game.
Baylor ranks second in the KenPom overall rankings, falling just behind No. 1 Gonzaga whom the Bears were supposed to play earlier this season, with the fourth best offense and the top defense in the country.
With quality wins over No. 5 Illinois, at No. 15 Texas Tech and versus No. 9 Kansas, the Bears are set up for a season like few others in program history.