#35 Baylor Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview

Baylor Bears
2017-2018 Overall Rank: #35
Conference Rank: #6 Big 12
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Baylor reached the top spot in the AP Poll for the first time in school history last year, but their season ended in a disappointing loss in the Sweet 16. It was the Bears fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance though, and they look primed to make another trip to the Big Dance this season. All-American Johnathan Motley is gone, however, and Baylor will need to replace his production. The Bears will still have an experienced lineup while adding several talented players to the roster. Baylor has become a mainstay in the NCAA Tournament, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t make their way back this season.
2016-17 Record: 27-8, 12-6
2016-17 Postseason:
NCAA Tournament
Scott Drew
Coach Record:
279-179 at Baylor, 299-190 overall
Who’s Out:
The biggest loss for Baylor is All-American talent Johnathan Motley. Motley made second team All-America along with winning the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year award. Motley was Baylor’s first consensus All-Big 12 first team member behind his 17.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. Motley left school a year early to play in the NBA. Senior leader Ish Wainwright has graduated from the program. Wainwright never had spectacular stats, but he was always one of the most important players on the floor. Wainwright averaged 5.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.7 steals as a senior. Al Freeman left Baylor to become a grad transfer. Freeman was third on the team in scoring last year with 9.4 points per game. Lastly, Wendell Mitchell transferred after just one season at Baylor. Mitchell played just 8.8 minutes per game in 25 appearances.
Who’s In:
The Bears bring in a junior college transfer and three freshmen to complete the roster. Leonard Allen is a seven-footer who last played at San Diego City College in 2015-16. Allen sat out last season for academic reasons. He was a three-star recruit out of high school. Mark Vital and Tyson Jolly are both redshirt freshmen who sat out last year. Vital was a top-100 recruit a year ago. Jolly is a 6-4 guard who was a three-star recruit. Both players gained experience and polish during their redshirt seasons and will be able to immediately help the Bears. Tristan Clark is the lone true freshman on the roster. Clark is a four-star power forward who was ranked just outside the top-100 nationally. Expect all four newcomers to provide a role for Coach Scott Drew right away.
Who to Watch:
Manu Lecomte had an impressive debut season at Baylor, earning third team All-Big 12 honors. Lecomte was the team’s second leading scorer with 12.2 points per game. Lecomte also led the Bears in assists and three-point percentage. Lecomte should take over as the team’s undisputed leader as a senior. Jo Lual-Acuil was named to the Big 12 All-Defensive Team in his first season at Baylor. Lual-Acuil averaged 9.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and a conference-high 2.5 blocks per game. Lual-Acuil will continue to be the anchor of the Bears defense and should look to improve his offensive output with Motley gone. Terry Maston and King McClure should each see expanded roles this year. Maston was efficient in limited action last season, averaging 7.1 points and 3.8 rebounds in just 15.6 minutes per game. McClure started the final 12 games of the season, including a 17-point performance in the NCAA Tournament. Maston and McClure will both be inserted into the starting lineup this season, and will need to continue their efficient output. Jake Lindsey should see extended playing time as a junior. Lindsey averaged 4.7 points and 3.1 assists last season. Nuni Omot is also back after scoring 4.0 points per game in 25 appearances last year.
Final Projection:
Baylor will have to lean on their experienced starting five to get back to the NCAA Tournament. The Bears will have talented players on the bench, but not much maturity to go with it. Head coach Scott Drew has done a phenomenal job in his time at Baylor, and getting this team to the NCAA Tournament will be no walk in the park. If the younger guys develop as the year goes, the Bears could have one of the better teams in the Big 12. However, if Baylor struggles to get production from their reserves, they could be left on the wrong side of the bubble come March.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA Tournament
Projected Starting Five:
Manu Lecomte, Senior, Guard, 12.2 points per game

King McClure, Junior, Guard, 5.0 points per game
Jake Lindsey, Junior, Guard, 4.7 points per game
Terry Maston, Senior, Forward, 7.1 points per game
Jo Lual-Acuil, Senior, Center, 9.1 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 72.9 (181th in nation, 8th in conference)

Scoring Defense: 63.7 (21, 1)
Field-Goal Percentage: 47.1 (43, 3)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.5 (26, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.6 (248, 8)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.9 (130, 7)
Free-Throw Percentage: 72.3 (106, 3)
Rebound Margin: 8.7 (4, 1)
Assists Per Game: 15.5 (52, 5)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.4 (219, 8)
Madness 2017 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#102 Tristan Clark