*College basketball is here (unlike the NBA), and this year might be one of the best in recent memory. The powerhouse is back, while the Cinderellas believe. That’s a deadly combination. We know some of y’all have been asking for some previews. We have you covered â€“ the top 16 teams in the nation will be previewed individually in the next few weeks. After we broke down two teams looking to improve on last season’s finish yesterday, we’ll keep this going with No. 12-ranked Baylor (ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll).*
Last season the Baylor Bears posted a record of 18-13, good enough for 7th in the Big 12. They ended their season with a loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Tournament. Although they lost some key players in LaceDarius Dunn, Nolan Dennis, and Stargell Love, they have a great group of new guys coming in. Newcomers like Quincy Miller, Deuce Bello and transfers Pierre Jackson, Bradly Heslip and Gary Franklin allow Baylor to not dwell on the past but focus on the future.
The Bears began the 2010-2011 season with high hopes. They had a solid group of talent, but wouldn’t come close to reaching their full potential. LaceDarius Dunn & Perry Jones – the team’s two best players â€“ would both suffer suspensions during the season. The team struggled to find consistency all year, and because of it they never really met expectations. This season, those expectations have grown even bigger. Now Baylor’s roster is even more promising.
Baylor’s major strength last year was the size and versatility of their frontline. Perry Jones is arguably the nation’s most versatile forward, and Baylor fans had a lot of faith in him to lead a group of very physical bigs building a strong inside foundation. This season, that foundation has become even stronger.
Freshman forward Quincy Miller will have an immediate impact in the scoring department for the Bears. His contribution will be most felt in the scoring department, even if he is forced to come off the bench for the beginning of the season. He’s a 6-9 athlete who has the natural capability to put points on the board. He’s been drawing Durant comparisons before he’s even played a game. That speaks volumes about his potential. Miller has a chance to become something special and he’s not even the most versatile big on the roster. Jones is a 6-11 guard. At that height, there haven’t been many guys that can handle the ball and shoot like he does. Senior J’mison Morgan, who is also 6-11, will most likely start at center for the Bears so Miller might have to wait his turn. But I predict that he’ll be in the starting lineup at that three spot very soon. Until then, 6-10 senior Anthony Jones will probably be the starter. Quincy Acy will also see a lot of those minutes as well. Clearly, size is not a concern for the Bears.
What they do have to be concerned about is the guard play. After losing Dunn, their best perimeter shooter, the Bears don’t have any real outside threats left. This is a key weakness because now it makes Jones, Miller and the rest of the bigs more subject to double teams and that will ultimately result in turnovers. When guards can just turn their back on their man and not have to worry about them pouring in treys, the size advantage suddenly becomes less eminent. Freshman Deuce Bello is a very quick and athletic guard with loads of potential, however he isn’t quite money from three just yet. What he can offer is his ability to penetrate and kick the ball out to spot up shooters. Transfers Pierre Jackson and Bradly Heslip must knock those down and are both capable of doing so (Creating their own shots might be a difficulty.). A.J. Walton, last season’s starting lead guard, will be seeing a lot of minutes as well, but mainly because of his defensive assets.
[Related: Perry Jones Decides To Return To Baylor]
The Bears were ranked No. 12 in both the preseason AP Poll and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, which is the highest they’ve ever been ranked. Last year they were ranked as high as No. 9 in the Coaches Poll. I’m sure they will surpass that this year. The Bears have tons of potential and the Big 12 is theirs for the taking. Expect to see Perry Jones have a very impressive year, along with Quincy Miller. Those two will be gracing NBA draft boards very soon and both have enormously high ceilings. Baylor has been able to assemble one of the most promising rosters in terms of potential. It’s just a matter of putting the pieces together to reach that potential. Coach Scott Drew is ultimately responsible for that. He’ll have to earn those checks this season with so many pieces to try to fit together. But the Baylor community has faith in him.
I think this is the season the Bears prove they are a force to be reckoned with, and if they are at full-strength they will have a chance at a national championship.
Is Baylor going to underachieve this season? Or is this the year they put it all together?
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