#16 Baylor Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Baylor Bears

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #16
Conference Rank: #4 Big 12

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Baylor was pretty inconsistent last season, but the Bears were undoubtedly a very talented team. They beat Iowa State twice and West Virginia three times. They also beat ranked teams like Texas and Oklahoma at home. Of course, some of the steam was taken out of their campaign when the Bears lost in their NCAA Tournament opener against Georgia State. That loss has many down on the Bears heading into the 2015-2016 campaign, but Coach Scott Drew will again have a team that is capable of competing with anybody in the tough Big 12.

2014-15 Record: 24-10, 11-7
2014-15 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Scott Drew
Coach Record: 227-159 at Baylor, 247-170 overall

Who’s Out:
The Bears will have to do it without Kenny Chery and Royce O’Neale though. Chery was the team’s point guard and averaged 11.3 points and 4.1 assists during his senior season. O’Neale, despite being a double digit scorer, often went underappreciated. The 6-6 forward was second on the team in rebounds at 5.8 per game and assists with 3.4. He did a lot even when he was not scoring. O’Neale also developed into the team’s most efficient outside shooter. Deng Deng, who averaged 8.8 minutes per game, is also gone.

Who’s In:
The biggest need is playmakers on the perimeter and three incoming freshmen should be able to help fill that void. King McClure is the best of the group and he can score in bunches. A starting spot from day one at shooting guard is certainly a possibility with McClure. Combo guard Jake Lindsey and the extremely athletic Wendell Mitchell will add depth. Speaking of depth, the frontcourt could use some with Deng out of eligibility and they should get it from junior college transfer Jo Acuil. The seven-footer can get up and down the floor and averaged 20.1 points, 11.2 rebounds and 4.7 blocks at Neosho Community College in Kansas last year.

Who to Watch:
The frontcourt is absolutely loaded with talent. Rico Gathers is one of the most physically dominating players in the country and he will not back down from anybody. And at 6-8 and 275 pounds, he has the body to go along with his attitude. As a junior last year, he averaged 11.6 points and 11.6 rebounds. Gathers will again be one of the best rebounders in the country. He will be joined in the frontcourt by Taurean Prince and Johnathan Motley. Prince played the sixth man role last year and could again this season. But starting or not, he is the team’s best scorer and most prolific outside shooter. The 6-8 senior connected on 39.5 percent of his three-point attempts and led the Bears with 13.9 points per game. If he can defend the three spot effectively, Coach Drew could move him into the starting lineup on a regular basis. But there has to be room for Johnathan Motley too. Motley was a bit inconsistent as a freshman, but he was extremely effective when trying. He averaged 7.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. NBA scouts are already looking hard at Motley, but he still has to put it all together. If that happens this year, Baylor’s frontcourt will be one of the best in the country. Terry Maston will join the newcomers providing depth behind Gathers, Prince and Motley.

Final Projection:
As bad as it is losing Chery, Baylor still has a point guard with a year of starting experience on the roster. Lester Medford started beside Chery last year, averaging 7.6 points and 3.1 assists. The 5-10 senior will have to be more of a leader and make better decisions now that the point guard spot will probably be his alone. Al Freeman can sort of be a secondary ball handler, but he has a lot to prove in that department too. What Freeman can do is score and he will battle it out with McClure for the starting shooting guard spot. Ishmail Wainright figures to again provide depth on the wing. If Medford is ready to run the show and keep Baylor’s offense running as efficiently as it has under Coach Drew for the last decade, this will be a tough team to beat. The problem is the Big 12 is pretty brutal up top so, like last year, there will be some conference losses. Beating those mid-level Big 12 teams on a consistent basis will be important. If Baylor starts losing to the likes of Kansas State, a team like Georgia State will be hoping to draw Baylor in March.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Lester Medford, Senior, Guard, 7.6 points per game
Al Freeman, Sophomore, Guard, 4.8 points per game
Taurean Prince, Senior, Forward, 13.9 points per game
Johnathan Motley, Sophomore, Forward, 7.7 points per game
Rico Gathers, Senior, Forward, 11.6 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 69.1 (125th in nation, 5th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 60.2 (32, 1)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.4 (177, 6)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.2 (58, 5)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.9 (104, 3)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 37.7 (51, 2)
Free-Throw Percentage: 67.4 (240, 7)
Rebound Margin: 8.3 (6, 2)
Assists Per Game: 14.6 (47, 2)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.8 (200, 5)

Madness 2016 NBA Draft Rankings:
#55 Taurean Prince
#65 Rico Gathers

Madness 2015 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#68 King McClure
#159 Wendell Mitchell


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