Whatever your denomination, payback is a motherf'er.
At least that's what fans of the University of Texas
Athletic Program basketball team are hoping the sentiment is come Saturday. Remember, the Baylor Bears absolutely spanked a talented yet enigmatic Longhorn squad no less than three times last season including back-to-back double digit drubbings that embarrassed a once proud program.
Now the Chuck Taylor is on the other foot, and it's the Bears who are the talented enigma while the Longhorns look to reestablish their dominance over the Big 12 South. Can they do it? Let's find out.
The Baylor Backcourt
The Longhorns should breathe easier knowing Tweety Carter is gone. Last season the talented lead guard was thought of as the bus driver, but if this season is any indication, Tweety may have been the engine. To say Baylor's point guard play has been sketchy in his absence this season would be an understatement.
Filling in for Carter at the all important one guard spot is AJ Walton who has a performance beta bigger than Scott Drew's month-to-month bank ledger. If you're a person who likes steady, heady play out of your point guard, Walton isn't your guy.
On the plus side AJ shoots it from deep at an impressive 43% clip and he averages a terrific 5 assists per game. On the downside, he turns it over at a ridiculous 3.7 per contest, including 7 and 9 turnover nightmares in back to back games vs. Kansas and OSU respectively. Get a handle on things, AJ! Needless to say, Walton's game has all kind of holes and it will be interesting to see how one of the best defenses in the land exploits them.
The other guard is LaceDarius Dunn, a former McD's All-American with in-the-gym range and the ability to get to the rack. Lace is deadly on the catch and he uses his shooting cred to blow by and draw fouls as his team-leading 115 FT attempts will attest. But his game has dropped off in the absence of an elite PG to get him good looks. Still, Texas has to corral the talented 2 guard or it could be a long day.
Freshman Stargell Love is the only other Bear guard to log significant minutes and he's an afterthought as an offensive threat. The Bear backcourt is paper thin and can be worn down even if they do zone most of the game.
Lots of NBA talent, athletic ability, and length roam the baseline for the Bears. It all starts with probably the most talented freshman in college basketball in Perry Jones, even if most of it is still untapped. The kid is a 6-10 jumping jack that still hasn't had the light come on. In terms of physical talent you won't find a more athletic player in college basketball and Jones has bona fide hoops skills to go with it. Even though he's long and lanky, Jones will be an interesting matchup for Thompson and a good litmus test for Thompson's prospects in the Association ... in 2012.
Quincy Acy and Anthony Jones are the two forwards that flank Perry along the backline of Baylor's zone. You won't find a more athletic shot-blocking trio anywhere in the nation which is interesting because the Bears' zone has been wildly ineffective, but more on that in a minute.
Acy is more of a catch and finish guy so he's probably a good matchup for Gary Johnson. Johnson needs to body Acy and make his journey to the offensive glass a painful one. Anthony Jones is a more polished scorer with good touch and the ability to hit the occasional 3-ball. I like Hamilton on Jones because Jordan will have a strength advantage on Jones, who doesn't move without the ball well enough to punish Jordan where he's most exploitable—off the ball defense.
J'Mison Morgan is tied for league lead in first name apostrophes but lacks the Twitter flair and off the bench spunk of his Texas nemesis, J'Covan Brown. Unfortunately for the Bears, that's his only notable accreditation. He'll come in to bang and board with opposing team's bigs, but he's gives the Bears zero on the other end.
So based on personnel, Baylor isn't exactly a calculus problem or a Rubik's Cube for the opposition. The scouting report is pop-up book easy. Pressure Baylor's turnover prone perimeter players who give it up 16 times per game. Don't let Perry Jones and especially Lace Dunn go bananas on the offensive end. And be patient against their zone, because the Bears don't play it all that well.
Let's move on to the keys to the game.
Attacking The Zone
Speaking of the Baylor zone, let's address Longhorn Fan's fear of the zone in general. First, this fear is derived from Texas' final four loss to the 'Cuse. It also comes from dozens of games where we rolled out non scorers like Balbay and Mason together to attack other teams' zones. First, this is probably the worst Scott Drew coached zone team I've seen, and certainly not the caliber of a Syracuse or a Louisville. Do they have athletes and length to play a good zone? Sure. The Bears just lack the understanding it seems.
As for Texas personnel, if you haven't noticed by now, this isn't your father's Texas offense. Texas understands how to attack in different ways and they have the dynamic offensive personnel to pull it off. In fact, they have zone-specific personnel when you consider the following.
Texas has two face up posts in Thompson and Johnson to work the gaps at the high post and along the short corner when three perimeter shooters are spaced around the arc. Gary Johnson has the midrange game to force the backline of the zone to move off the baseline when he faces up for midrange look, creating even more space.
Texas also has the type of small forward the game covets. Jordan has the ability to facilitate because he can see over the Zone with his size and he can handle. He is the classic definition of swingman because he has unlimited range but can still use his size to finish along the baseline against the zone.
Finally, if we're playing Brown and Joseph, that gives us a pair of guards who are good shooters and great passers. It's as dynamic a zone busting club as anyone in America can roll out. The face up forwards and a true small forward are the difference makers to go along with a pair of guards with range. If we’re patient, we should cut their zone to pieces. The bonus is Baylor doesn’t have back to the basket bigs to punish our small dream-wagon lineup on the other end.
Speaking of which, this has to be the battle cry on offense if numbers aren't there in transition. I can't emphasize this enough, but if we run our zone offense by collapsing the zone and hitting the forwards in the high post or along the baseline, kick out 3's will be available all game. Brown, Joseph, and Hamilton need to understand this before they start with the heat checks one pass into a possession.
From ball pressure to wing denial, Texas can steal possessions from the turnover prone Bears, it's just a matter of bringing it. Walton isn't a true blow-by guard that's going to defeat good on ball pressure, and LaceDarius needs a catch with a defender running at him to get to the basket consistently. Let Tristan clean up any mess at the rim.
This one scared me a week ago because the Bears have NBA talent and elite athleticism. After looking at the matchups a little more in depth, I'd be worried if the Bears had the steady guard play to make sure Jones and Dunn got their shots. I don't think they do. I was also worried about the Horns being complacent coming into the game, but after what they did to OU…I'm not.
This is an entirely different Texas team than the one playing a season ago. Texas wins 77 to 65.