Five Thoughts on the Baylor Men’s Basketball 2022-23 Season
The Baylor Bears finished the 2022-23 season 23-11 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Here are five thoughts on their season.
Baylor worked to get some big games on its non-conference schedule, including three ranked teams — Virginia, UCLA and Gonzaga. The Bears beat UCLA and Gonzaga while losing to Virginia (all games 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 get blown out by 26?
The Bears carried a 2-1 record against ranked teams and a 3-2 record against Power 6 teams (the Bears also beat Washington State in Dallas) into Big 12 action.
The Bears started Big 12 play by losing their first three games against Iowa State, TCU and Kansas State. From that ugly start, the Bears won their next six games, including a home victory over Arkansas in the Big 12-SEC Challenge. Coming out of that win over the Razorbacks, Baylor lost on the road at Texas but then won three straight.
From there, the Bears were consistently inconsistent as they played through an injury to freshman guard Keyonte George. The Bears lost two straight on the road to Kansas and Kansas State, then won two straight over Texas and Oklahoma State, and then two straight to Iowa State, the latter at the Big 12 Tournament.
After handling UC Santa Barbara in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Bears fell to Creighton in the second round.
The Bears were built around their guards — Adam Flagler, Keyonte George and LJ Cryer. Flagler led the Bears in scoring (15.6) and assists (4.6) as he took on the point guard role. George, one of the top recruits from the 2022 class, averaged 15.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists, but his play suffered after a late February foot injury. There simply wasn’t enough time for him to properly recover. Cryer averaged 15 points and two assists. Flagler and Cryer both shot 40 percent from the 3-point line.
Jalen Bridges, the West Virginia transfer, averaged 10.3 points and a team-leading 5.6 assists.
From there, guard Langston Love (6.3 points), forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (5.1 points, 4.8 rebounds in 12 games), forward Flo Thamba (5.0 points, 4.6 rebounds), guard Dale Bonner (4.7 points) and forward Josh Ojianwuna (4.2 points, 3.5 rebounds) all gathered at least 13 minutes per game. BYU transfer Caleb Lohner (3.2 points, 3.5 rebounds) averaged about 12 minutes.
It’s still the era of the COVID waiver, but here are the players listed as seniors on the roster — Thamba, Bonner, Flagler and Tchamwa Tchatchoua.
Thamba has played five seasons and is out of eligibility. Flagler is a fifth-year senior that used his redshirt when he transferred to Baylor so he should be done. Bonner should have a COVID waiver to use. Tchamwa Tchatchoua has been accepted to Baylor graduate school and Baylor coach Scott Drew said in February that Tchamwa Tchatchoua would get another year of eligibility with his COVID waiver.
The Bears may lost George to the NBA, as he is projected a lottery pick. He has not announced a decision.
The Bears have also lost guard/forward Jordan Turner to the transfer portal.
Who’s Staying and Who’s Coming In?
Bonner and Tchamwa Tchatchoua are safe bets to return. Other players expected to return are Bridges, Cryer, Love, Ojianwuna, Lohner, guard Jake Younkin, guard Dantwan Grimes, forward Austin Sacks and forward Zach Loveday. That’s 11 returning players. Some are likely walk-ons.
Head coach Scott Drew and his staff continued to recruit well, signing two Top 30 players in the early-signing period. That pair is 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. As of March he’s ranked No. 28 overall.
Drew and company may have a bit of room to grab an impact transfer.
Expect Cryer and, perhaps Bridges, to declare for the NBA Draft but retain their eligibility. They’ll want to get their report card and then come back to Baylor for another season. George is unlikely to return, but if for some reason he did that would be a huge coup for the Bears.
Right now the Bears project a starting lineup of Cryer, Love, Bridges, Tchamwa Tchatchoua and either Walter or Bonner. They need some size and they need some defense, either home-grown or from the transfer portal.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard