A year after nearly making the Final Four, the Baylor Bears were expected to do big things last season. However, the team never truly gelled together and missed out on the NCAA Tournament. With Perry Jones' somewhat surprising decision to return to Waco, Baylor has one of the most talented rosters in the country. Can Scott Drew put it all together though?
The Bears' frontcourt is loaded with height, length, and versatility. Perry Jones' return gives Baylor a ton of flexibility since he can play multiple positions and do just about everything on the floor. He is looking to bounce back after a fairly underwhelming freshman season and prove why he was one of the top recruits in the 2010 class.
The addition of top-10 recruit Quincy Miller adds even more hype for the upcoming season. He suffered an ACL injury that prematurely ended his senior season of high school but appears to be back to full strength. Like Perry Jones, Miller is an all-around threat who actually is at his best when playing on the wing.
With two likely NBA Draft-lottery picks on the roster, seniors Quincy Acy and Anthony Jones are sort of the forgotten players on this team. Acy is an undersized though physical and athletic power forward who consistently amazes with highlight-reel dunks. Anthony Jones is insanely lanky, can shoot the ball from deep, and is yet another versatile forward who can play any spot in the frountcourt. He has started every game the past two seasons but might be forced to the bench this year due to all the talent up front.
J'Mison Morgan provides a physical presence off the bench when the Bears need a big body down low. Fred Ellis is another experienced forward, giving Drew even more options in the frontcourt. Cory Jefferson who redshirted last season, figures to be the odd man out of the rotation.
The biggest Achilles' heel last season was at the point guard position. Returning starter A.J. Walton turned the ball way too often and will compete for minutes with reigning JUCO Player of the Year Pierre Jackson and California transfer Gary Franklin who becomes eligible after the first semester. Drew will likely ride the hot hand on a nightly basis though it appears Walton will begin the season in the starting lineup. Walton and Jackson can both really get after it on the defensive end which will help Baylor get transition opportunities where they thrive.
After sitting out last season, Brady Heslip provides a sharpshooter to help replace what the Bears lose from LaceDarius Dunn. Deuce Bello is a crazy athletic wing who excels off the bounce and in the open floor. He figures to see plenty of playing time off the bench.
There is no question that Baylor possesses an extraordinary amount of talent. The length and depth of their frontcourt will cause problems for opposing offenses in that 2-3 zone. If Drew can keep his forwards happy by spreading the playing time out and the new faces at guard make the impact that many expect them to; the Bears will once again be knocking on the door of a trip to the Final Four.
Player to Watch: Perry Jones III, F
The Big XII Preseason Player of the Year, Jones III saw his once soaring NBA Draft stock take a major hit as last season progressed. Still, he would have been a top-10 pick in last year's draft but instead chose to return to Baylor, shocking those who figured he was a for sure one-and-done. Jones will be looking for redemption this season; both in proving his ability and helping Baylor get back to the NCAA Tournament.