The Baylor Bears are 10-2 after playing its pre-Big 12 schedule and are now preparing for its conference opener against Iowa State on Dec. 31.
With that, we have five thoughts about the Bears at the break.
Don’t forget about our new feature for men’s basketball — Daily Fantasy Lineups. Every night a Big 12 team is part of the Draft Kings pool, I’ll provide my picks for the game, along with my complete lineup. The hope is that by Big 12 play I’m able to put together a full Big 12 lineup during conference games.
At the Moment
Baylor worked to get some big games on its schedule, including three ranked teams — Virginia, UCLA, and Gonzaga. The Bears beat UCLA and Gonzaga while losing to Virginia (both were at neutral sites). The other loss came in Baylor’s Big 12-Big EAST Battle game against Shaka Smart’s Marquette Golden Eagles. That was a stunning 96-70 loss. Who expected Baylor to get blown out by 26?
The Bears carry a 2-1 record against ranked teams and a 3-2 record against Power 6 teams (the Bears also beat Washington State in Dallas). The Bears have only one true road game so far, which was Marquette, and they’re 0-1 on that front.
NBA scouts told guard Adam Flagler they needed to see him play more point guard. He’s obliged. He’s averaging a team-leading 5.2 assists per game and still leads the Bears in scoring at 16.1 points. We’ll see how long he can hold off talented freshman Keyonte George (15.6 points) and holdover guard LJ Cryer (14.9 points). Flagler is hitting 50 percent of his 3-pointers. Cryer (37.1) and George (34.8) should improve. Dale Bonner (6.3 points) and Langston Love (7.7 points) give the Bears great depth at guard.
Flo Thamba remains the starter inside, but he’s averaging just 4.5 points. More concerning is he’s averaging just 5.2 rebounds, and that leads the team. Transfers Jalen Bridges (8.5 points) and Caleb Lohner (5.8 points) have played capably, but don’t have quite the energy that Johnathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua brought last season. One player that does is another freshman, Josh Ojianwuna (5.8 points), who is getting 15 minutes per game.
The Bears have a clear nine-player rotation, all of which get at least 15 minutes per game.
The Recruiting Class
Head coach Scott Drew and his staff continue to come out smelling like a rose on the recruiting trail. They signed a two-person class, led by Link Academy (Branson, Mo.) guard Ja’Kobe Walter, a five-star recruit and Top 20 player as rated by 247Sports. He’ll add to Baylor’s already scintillating depth at guard.
Guard Miro Little is more of a point guard and the Bears stole him out of Kansas’ backyard — Sunrise Christian in Wichita, Kan. He was just outside 247Sports.com’s Top 100 at the time he signed.
The Bears have four seniors on the roster, so theoretically the Bears may have a little more room. But George could exit for the NBA Draft. The Bears could have room for another top recruit or a transfer come April.
The interior game. At the start of the season, I wasn’t that worried. But now I have concerns. I felt Thamba made significant progress as a scorer at the end of last season. But that hasn’t translated this season. He’s rebounding at a rate similar to last season. Bridges, Lohner, and Ojianwuna are all grabbing at least four per game. So is George. Still, the team’s overall rebounding numbers are in the middle of the pack (as a team they snag 36.9 per game). Drew would probably love to see Thamba get a little more assertive inside. It’s not all on him, but he’s the one interior player with the experience and capability to dominate.
The Big Stretch
A five-game stretch starting on Feb. 11 is likely to determine Baylor’s seed for the Big 12 Tournament and perhaps it’s seeding for the NCAA Tournament. It starts with TCU in Fort Worth. Then, it’s home against West Virginia, a two-game swing to Kansas and Kansas State, followed by a home game with Texas. That’s four ranked teams in a five-game stretch with just a couple of weeks to recover before March truly begins.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard