Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Baylor Bears (Last Year: 30-8, 12-6 in Big XII)
2012-13 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Isaiah Austin (Fr)/J'mison Morgan (Sr)
PF: Cory Jefferson (Sr)/Rico Gathers (Fr)/Chad Rykhoek (Fr)
SG: Brady Heslip (Jr)/Deuce Bello (So)/Taurean Prince (Fr)
G: A.J. Walton (Sr)/Gary Franklin (Jr)
PG: Pierre Jackson (Sr)/L.J. Rose (Fr)
F-Perry Jones III, F/C-Quincy Acy, SF-Quincy Miller, F-Anthony Jones, F-Fred Ellis
The Baylor Bears have relied on their lengthy, athletic frontcourt for the past few years. Now, Scott Drew has lost his entire starting frontcourt, including three of his top-four scorers meaning the guard play will be relied on to lead the way this season.
Dynamic point guard Pierre Jackson will be the go-to option. After transferring in from a junior college, he led Baylor averaging almost 14 points, 6 assists per game last season and shot 41% from distance. Jackson was chosen as the Big XII's Preseason Player of the Year and doesn't let his 5-10 height stand in the way of his aggressive attacking style on both ends of the floor.
Based on the Bears' first exhibition game, Drew will likely switch to a three-guard starting lineup that will feature Brady Heslip and A.J. Walton. Heslip is one of the nation's top three-point shooters, connecting on 45.5% of his triple tries a year ago. Walton is a glue guy-type of player who doesn't excel in any particular area, but is versatile and plays hard on the defensive end. The biggest question I have is how this three-guard lineup will affect Baylor's defense since it played a lot of 2-3 zone in recent years due to the terrific length of the frontcourt. Expect to see a lot more man-to-man this season.
Gary Franklin and freshman point guard L.J. Rose provide quality depth in the backcourt. Franklin is another three-point threat, while Rose is a pure point guard who will be the floor general of the future in Waco. Crazy athletic wing Deuce Bello will allow the team to use a longer lineup as he should play a more prominent role this season. A late signee to the 2012 class, former Long Island commit Taurean Green probably won't factor into the rotation.
Even though the Bears lose their top-four frontcourt options from last season, the cupboard is far from bare. Drew brings in a top-10 recruit in 7-1 Isaiah Austin, who is true rim protector and great athlete, but at 220 pounds, is not at all a physical presence. That is where J'mison Morgan comes into play. With all the depth up front last year, Morgan redshirted since he probably wouldn't have seen the floor much. He is 275 pounds and will add some physicality behind Austin.
Cory Jefferson will step into the starting power forward role after playing just 10 minutes per game a year ago. He will be pushed by former St. John's commit Rico Gathers, who isn't afraid to throw his 260-pound body around inside. 6-11 Chad Rykhoek adds even more size up front, but he doesn't figure to be a contributor this year.
Player to Watch: Isaiah Austin, C
Austin is expected to be one of biggest impact freshmen in the country this season. He's not a prototypical big-man in that he handles the ball well for his size and cause mismatches on the perimeter and in the paint. Where Austin needs to make his presence felt most is on the glass and in protecting the rim as a shot-blocker.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/9 vs. Lehigh
11/15 vs. Boston College (Charleston Classic)
11/16 vs. Colorado/Dayton (Charleston Classic)
11/18 vs. St. John's/Charleston/Murray State/Auburn (Charleston Classic)
12/1 at Kentucky
12/4 vs. Northwestern
12/21 vs. BYU
12/28 at Gonzaga
Predicted Big XII Finish: 2nd
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