There’s a buzz around Baylor’s basketball program, and for good reason. If the Bears can catch some breaks, there’s optimism that they can compete for the Big 12.
Baylor only lost two rotation players from last season’s NCAA Tournament second round team. More than 70 percent of the Bears’ total scoring and 82 percent of their rebounding is back. Those returners will get some major reinforcements.
Despite signing just one player in the class of 2019, the Bears add three big-time pieces heading into the 2019-20 season. The headliner is forward Tristan Clark, who missed most of last season with a knee injury. He could be an All-America contender after averaging 14.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game on 73.7 percent from the field before getting hurt.
Additionally, transfers Davion Mitchell (Auburn) and MaCio Teague (UNC Asheville) should provide an immediate spark. Mitchell’s athletic 6-foot-1 frame makes him an elite driver and finisher. Teague averaged 16.1 points per game and nailed just under 44 percent of his 3-pointers for the Bulldogs. Both will compete for starting jobs. The transfers have more than 100 career collegiate games under their belts.
“You have more proven pieces and you have more experience to build off of,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “It allows you to get to a position where we can put them in better situations. You have data from last year, whereas with nine new guys, you’re just guessing. Now you have something to go on.”
If Baylor is going to make the leap so many hope they can, the returners will be critical. Point guard Jared Butler averaged 12 points per game in conference play, and exploded for 31 points on the road against Kansas. Former Mississippi State transfer Mario Kegler (10.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG) and Devonte Bandoo (8.4 PPG, 39.5 3P%) will both compete for major minutes too.
One Baylor assistant noted that as many as eight players will legitimately compete for a starting job in camp. Ten should stick in the rotation, and that doesn’t count highly-touted freshman wing Jordan Turner. This could be among the deepest teams that Baylor has fielded since Scott Drew took over the program.
Baylor has quietly been the most consistent team in the Big 12 outside of Kansas over the last decade. The Bears have five tournament appearances in the past six seasons, and were the last team out of the other. With a deep, experienced and talented roster, this could be among the better teams Drew has fielded during his time at Baylor.
Preseason MVP: Tristan Clark
The San Antonio junior averaged 14.6 points and led the nation in field goal percentage before going out for the year. If he stays healthy and adjusts to a new roster, Clark could be an All-America contender.
Game of the Year: Jan. 25 at Florida
The Bears can make a major statement in the national spotlight on the road against a consistent SEC title contender.
Impact-First Year Player: