Baylor men’s basketball begins 2019-20 ranked 16th nationally
What a difference a year makes for Baylor men’s basketball. Last year, the Bears were picked to finish next-to-last in the Big 12, but overcame injuries to record another 20-win season and NCAA appearance.
Building off that success, head coach Scott Drew’s team enters the 2019-20 season ranked 16th nationally — second-best in program history — and picked by league coaches to finish second in the Big 12. The Bears have lofty expectations to meet in this year, but there are plenty of reasons to believe Baylor can meet or exceed those projections — most notably, depth and experience.
Many teams would have a difficult time replacing two veteran guards, like the Bears will try to do after the graduation of King McClure and Makai Mason. Still, according to preseason publications like Athlon Sports, “few backcourts in the country will be able to match Baylor’s in terms of talent, depth and experience.” It starts with sophomore Jared Butler, who averaged over 10 points and nearly 3 assists per game on the way to Big 12 All-Freshman team honors. He’s joined by Devonte Bandoo, a key returnee off the bench, along with highly-touted transfers Donovan Mitchell and MaCio Teague, who expect to make significant contributions.
In the frontcourt, Baylor will be bolstered by the return of junior forward Tristan Clark, a preseason All-Big 12 selection who looked to be on his way to a breakout season before a knee injury prematurely ended his sophomore year. His return, coupled with growth from Freddie Gillespie, Mark Vital and Matthew Mayer, provides the Bears with a potentially explosive group of forwards. Thanks largely to that quartet, the Bears were one of the top three teams in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage last year, and with every rotation forward coming back, hope to vie for such lofty numbers once again.
With the Bears at No. 16 and the Lady Bears at No. 2 nationally, Baylor is one of just five schools nationally to have both programs ranked in the AP Preseason Top 25, joining Louisville, Maryland, Michigan State and Oregon.
Drew will challenge this year’s team with a tough non-conference schedule that includes matchups at home against preseason No. 21 Arizona and Butler (Drew’s alma mater), a game in Alaska against the Washington Huskies, a potential matchup against Utah just prior to Thanksgiving and a January Big 12/SEC Challenge matchup at No. 6 Florida.
The season begins this Tuesday, when the Bears host Central Arkansas at 11 a.m. at the Ferrell Center.
Sic ’em, Bears!