I'm doing an "NBA Draft Toolbox" series over at SB Nation, and I have a look at how Baylor's players project at the next level.
Baylor has the deepest front-court in the country, which is pretty bad news for a UT team with one scholarship player above 6'7. They go 6'9 -- 6'11 -- 6'7 across the front-line, and they bring a 6'9 bruiser (Cory Jefferson) and a 6'11 shooter (Anthony Jones) off the bench. All five have 30' inch vertical and wingspans over 7'0.
They're so deep that J'Mison "Bobo" Morgan, a 6'11 250 former McDonald's All-American who went to South Oak Cliff and transferred from UCLA, is red-shirting this year. Bobo's pretty much done nothing in college and the only reason he was a five-star guy is because he once dunked on Greg Monroe in AAU ball, but he'd still easily be the starting center at Texas this year.
The good news is they have Scott Drew "coaching" them and Pierre Jackson and AJ Walton "passing" them the ball:
Baylor doesn't maximize their stars athletic ability defensively, get them the ball enough offensively or play them as many minutes as is typical for a lottery pick. Five years from now, when people are making lists of the top 100 players in the NBA, they're going to wonder how a college team with both Miller and Jones ever lost a game. That's how.
The Bears best player is Perry Jones III, who looks like one of the best players in the world warming up. Not only is he extremely athletic at 6'11 235 with a 7'2 wingspan, he's also incredibly fluid in space, moving like a 6'2-6'3 guard. He's got an excellent looking jump-shot that extends out to the three-point line and is a phenomenal ball-handler for his size.
However, once the game starts, he can be incredibly passive. While he's called "soft" a lot, it's more that he's a true unselfish team-first player who never looks to force his own shot even when he can pretty much score at will at this level when he feels like it. This is a guy who would have went no lower than No. 2 in the draft last year but came back to Waco ... because he genuinely enjoyed being there?
He'll be an incredible Lamar Odom type second option in the NBA. Right now, he's part of a three-man group of 6'11+ players who have differentiated themselves from the rest of the pack along with Kentucky's Anthony Davis and UConn's Andre Drummond.
Miller as the first option against a San Diego State team now in the top 15.
The Bears other elite prospect is freshmen Quincy Miller. He took a secondary role once Jones returned from a five-game amateurism-related suspension, but he is the absolute truth and I'm getting a ticket on his bandwagon right now.
He's 6'9 200 with a 7'4 wingspan with good floor vision, handles and an effortless jumper; he can pretty much "get buckets" at will on the college level. As a freshman coming off major knee surgery, he's shooting 49% from the field, 41% from the three-point line and 77% from the free-throw line. For comparison's sake, a certain UT freshman in 2006 shot 47% from the field, 40% from three and 82% from the line. Yeah, I went there.
While Kevin Durant is still far more comfortable playing outside-in, Miller's injury has made him play inside-out, which lets him use his 7'4 release point and soft touch to create great looks at the basket.
He needs to put some weight on his frame, as he's painfully thin right now and he can be pushed around by the 6'7 220+ athletes he'll see at the small forward position on the next level. Unfortunately, there's no such player on UT's roster right now.
Fortunately for Texas, Baylor's starting PG is Pierre Jackson, a 5'10 scoring guard who was the JUCO player of the year at Southern Idaho last season. Jackson's got game, but he seems to be under the delusion that he's actually the Bears most important player.
Against Missouri, Miller had the 6'2 Matt Pressey defending him, but Jackson thought taking pull-up contested 20-foot jumpers with :20 seconds on the shot-clock was the better option. The more shots Jackson takes on Saturday, the better it is for Texas.
On the other end of the floor, Drew has his team playing a 1-3-1 zone, a bizarre decision on multiple counts. Teams traditionally play zone defenses to make up for a lack of talent, think of them like Mike Leach's "Air Raid" offense at Tech. That's not exactly a problem for Baylor, who play NBA-caliber athletes at all five positions on the floor, except shooting guard, where they have a generic 6'3 lights-out white shooter in Brady Heislip, a transfer from Boston College.
The 1-3-1 is also far less common than the 2-3 for obvious reasons: A 2-3 leaves the high post open, confident that there are very few 6'8+ college players capable of running an offense from the free-throw line. In so doing, it keeps two guards spread out at the top of the key and two forwards defending the baseline, the two easiest spots on the floor to hit three-pointers. A 1-3-1 defends the middle of the paint at the cost of making it easy to swing the ball around the perimeter and get open looks from the three-point line.
Texas should follow the blue-print that West Virginia used to nearly shock Baylor 83-81 in non-conference play: swing the ball around the perimeter for 25-30 seconds to get the most wide-open 3 point shot possible and then try to position themselves for a long offensive rebound, as rebounding out of a zone, without individual box-out responsibilities, is incredibly difficult.
There should be a lot of opportunities for J'Covan Brown, Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis on the perimeter, while Jonathan Holmes and Jaylen Bond are going to need to play extremely well against Jones and Miller.
Nothing would really surprise me on Saturday: Baylor is talented enough to blow us out of the gym like they did to Oklahoma State, but they're also so undisciplined and poorly coached that they could let us hang around and give J'Covan a chance to steal the game at the very end.