Welcome to The Sports Bank’s fourth annual college basketball season preview series where we break 111 teams in the 111 days leading up to the opening tip-off of the 2013-2014 season. We will rank the 84 power conference teams (including the new Big East and American Athletic Conferences) and top 27 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order. We’ll break down rosters, transfers, incoming freshmen, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.
After underachieving last season, (sorry, I can’t count an NIT Championship as being successful) the Baylor Bears bring back some key players but also have holes to fill if they plan on getting back to the NCAA Tournament.
Last Season: 6th, 9-9 in Big 12, 23-14 overall
Predicted Big 12 Finish: 3rd
Projected Depth Chart
C: Isaiah Austin (So)/Chad Rykhoek (Fr)
PF: Cory Jefferson (Sr)/Rico Gathers (So)/Johnathan Motley (Fr)
SF: Ish Wainwright (Fr)/Taurean Prince (So)
SG: Brady Heslip (Sr)/Allerik Freeman (Fr)
PG: Gary Franklin (Sr)/Kenny Chery (Jr)
Gone: PG-Pierre Jackson, G-A.J. Walton, G/F-Deuce Bello (transfer-Missouri), PG-L.J. Rose (transfer-Houston)
The strength for the Baylor Bears is up-front where the starting tandem of Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson return. That duo combined to average more than 26 points, 16 boards, and nearly four blocked shots per game last year. The 7-1 Austin is more of a finesse big man who has a nice face-up game and can stretch defenses with his outside shooting. Jefferson has a nice combination of athleticism and strength and does most of his damage inside.
Rico Gathers is an undersized but very physical post player and will once again be the first big man off the bench. Redshirt freshman Chad Rykhoek and Johnathan Motley add depth inside.
There is a changing at guard with the graduation of Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton, and Deuce Bello and L.J. Rose choosing to transfer. The one constant from last season is three-point specialist Brady Heslip who connected on nearly 39% of his triple tries. Gary Franklin is also back and after spending most of last season playing off the ball, is likely to take over at the point even though he isn’t much of a creator.
Junior college transfer Kenny Chery might be the second coming of Jackson as he is a scoring point guard who is lightning quick with the ball but also capable of lighting it up from deep. Freshman shooting guard Allerik Freeman will be a major factor off the bench but is likely be out until early December after suffering a hand injury during training camp.
Scott Drew has used plenty of three-guard looks during the past couple of seasons but the addition of top 100 recruit Ish Wainwright should give Baylor a true starting small forward. Wainwright excels in transition and his at his best off the bounce. Taurean Prince will see minutes off the bench and an x-factor is Denver transfer Royce O’Neale. He is still awaiting word from the NCAA about a waiver that would make him eligible right away and if granted, O’Neale could start for the Bears and be a valuable asset due to his versatility on the floor.
Baylor is a clear cut tier behind Kansas and Oklahoma State in the Big 12. There frontcourt will be as talented as any in the league but it will be their guard play that is the ultimate determining factor for where the Bears end up in March.
Player to Watch: Isaiah Austin
Austin could have left for the NBA this past summer and possibly would have been a lottery selection but instead chose to return to Waco. He is long and athletic but his rail thin frame and lack of physicality was a glaring weakness and concern among NBA scouts.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/8 vs. Colorado (in Denver)
11/12 vs. South Carolina
11/25 vs. Chaminade (Maui Invitational)
11/26 vs. Gonzaga/Dayton (Maui Invitational)
11/27 vs. Syracuse/Minnesota/ (Maui Invitational)
12/6 vs. Kentucky (in Arlington)
OTHER 111 IN 111’S:
#29 St. John’s
#33 Boise State
#36 St. Louis
#37 La Salle
#38 San Diego State
#40 Arizona State
#44 Iowa State
#52 Boston College
#53 Ole Miss
#56 Saint Mary’s
#60 Florida Gulf Coast
#64 Florida State
#66 N.C. State
#67 Kansas State
#70 Miami FL
#72 Texas A&M
#73 Long Beach State
#76 Indiana State
#77 Georgia Tech
#84 Washington State
#86 Oregon State
#87 Louisiana Tech
#89 Wake Forest
#90 Central Florida
#95 Seton Hall
#97 George Mason
#99 Penn State
#101 West Virginia
#102 South Florida
#103 Mississippi State
#105 South Carolina
#106 Texas Tech
#108 Virginia Tech
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu to Milwaukee. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet , AND the second most accurate 2013 NBA Mock Draft. (Yup, nearly 3peat champ… #humblebrag.)
You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.Powered by Sidelines Follow paulmbanks