It took all of one game for the guard-oriented Baylor Bears to serve notice that they have the potential to be a hot-shooting team this season. It took a second game to show how important shooting consistency will be to their potential success.
Baylor opened the season by draining 18 shots from 3-point range, only two shy of the program record, in rolling to a 105-61 victory over Central Arkansas. Sophomore guard Jared Butler led the way with 30 points on 8-of-12 shooting from 3-point range. As a team, the Bears made 54.5 percent of their 3-point attempts (18-of-33).
But just three days later at the Armed Forces Classic in Anchorage, Alaska, Baylor went 23-of-65 from the field (35.4 percent) in a 67-64 loss to Washington. The Bears failed to make a field goal over the final five minutes, allowing the Huskies to close the game on a 14-1 run.
“The last five minutes we’ll learn a lot from, and hopefully get better at closing games in the future,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said.
The ability to make shots will likely determine whether Baylor has a shot at winning the Myrtle Beach Invitational. This is a team that is expected to thrive on the perimeter, with 10 players listed as either guards or a guard/forward combo. As a result, the Bears are expected to be able to shuffle their lineup around as needed, finding the best matchups each game and going with the players who have the hot shooting hand.
“We can go three guards, four guards, two guards. It’s great to see how versatile we are on the court,” said senior guard Devonte Bandoo, who came off the bench against UCA to score 15 points – including 10 in a span of 1:40 – and grab seven rebounds. “It’s going to be a shocker for a lot of teams that play us. We can adapt to any size. It’s great to have a lot of depth.”
That depth includes MaCio Teague – a Division I transfer from UNC Asheville who posted a double-double against UCA with 18 points and 12 rebounds – as well as 6-foot-10 preseason All-Big 12 forward Tristan Clark, who averaged 14.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game last season before injuring his knee.
“In practice he’s had moments where he was the Tristan of old, and then he’s had moments where he’s still getting the rust off,” Drew said. “It’s a long process for him. He will keep getting better and better with time.”
Clark’s return adds to a team that already has plenty of talent and depth. The potential of that roster resulted in Baylor being picked to finish second in the Big 12 Conference this season, behind only perennial conference favorite Kansas.
Baylor plays Ohio on Nov. 20 in the first round of the Myrtle Beach Invitation. In other first-round action, Villanova takes on Middle Tennessee, Mississippi State faces Tulane, and Utah draws hometown Coastal Carolina, which is hosting the tournament. All four games will be broadcast on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.