Photo provided by Our Daily Bears
The Baylor men’s basketball team has been the standard for consistency over the past decade, reaching the NCAA tournament in seven of the last 10 years. And yet they haven’t made a truly deep run in almost 10 years under coach Scott Drew. Could this be the year that changes? Let’s take a look at the Bears roster, playstyle and ceiling for the 2019-2020 season.
The Bears lost two key players from last year’s team due to graduation including guards King McClure and Makai Mason. While both fantastic players, the pairs’ departure does not spell doom for the Bears by any means. McClure, while talented, was extremely inconsistent from game to game. Makai Mason was more of a stabilizing force, however remained extremely limited as a defender and finisher because of his height and lack of top tier athleticism. These two’s departures will open up opportunities for more well-rounded players with perhaps even higher ceilings out of the Baylor backcourt.
The Bears added some help from the transfer portal though, which will likewise ease the burn of losing two starters. One of these transfers is Davion Mitchell, the backup point guard from Auburn with quick feet and a killer first step. Mitchell’s athleticism will be a breath of fresh air at the guard slot, as his harassing defensive style will give players across the Big 12 fits. The Bears’ other transfer add was MaCio Teague, a deadly three-point shooter for UNC Asheville a year ago.
Sharpshooters Mario Kegler, Devonte Bandoo and Jared Butler will likely all see expanded roles from the guard position. A key player to watch will be Butler, who impressed as a freshman in a limited, off-ball scoring role. Bandoo, with his nearly 40% shooting clip from beyond the three-point line, has the potential to stretch defenses out to the perimeter better than anyone Drew coached since Brady Heslip.
The Bears figure to have a multifaceted offensive punch this season. Dominant post player Tristan Clark returning from injury will give the Bears a powerful force in the paint that they can dump the ball down to for an easy two points. When Clark inevitably gets double teamed, a blistering three-point attack from the Baylor guards will render the Bears almost impossible to guard. The inside-out attack the Bears will look to employ will be reminiscent of a young Dwight Howard on the Orlando Magic, commanding attention and finding perimeter shooters when needed. Adding Teague and giving players like Bandoo an expanded role will make this offense even more deadly.
The defense will likewise be deadly. Drew’s patented matchup zone defense is usually pretty tough to score against, but adding length and athleticism with Davion Mitchell, as well as returning defensive anchor Tristan Clark in the paint, will render this one of the toughest teams to score on in the entire nation. After Clark went down with a knee injury last season, the Bears’ defense had a bit of trouble slowing down opponents in the paint. That problem should get fixed pretty quickly with the re-addition of Clark to the defensive scheme.
Of course it’s hard to say how good the Bears will be, but the personnel is too good not to get excited about it. Chemistry is almost never the reason Drew’s teams lose – it’s almost always because of a lack of top tier talent. However, this season looks to hold one of his most talented teams to date. Not only that, but the team’s overall depth, especially at the guard and wing positions, is loaded.
This team is not only a tournament team – they have a chance to make a deep run.
Don’t sleep on the Bears this year.