It looks like a major rebuild for Baylor this season as the players and production that are gone from last year’s squad are staggering. The Bears’ top four scorers were seniors — a group that combined for 51.5 points per game — and guard Jake Lindsey’s off-season hip surgery means a redshirt year for him.
It’s difficult to say if Baylor coach Scott Drew has made contenders out of less coming back. But his other-worldly ability to stay positive will no doubt pay dividends as the Bears turn over their roster this season. Those close to the program are pinning their hopes on the fact that some of Drew’s best teams have seemingly come out of nowhere to be relevant in the Big 12 race.
2017-18 RECORD/RESULT: 19-15. Lost to Mississippi State in the second round of the NIT.
Returners: King McClure, Mark Vital. Newcomers: Darius Allen, Devonte Bandoo, MaCio Teague, Makai Mason, Jared Butler. Outlook: Bears floor-leader Jake Lindsey required hip surgery in the offseason and will miss the campaign. That leaves Baylor thin at the guard spot. Senior King McClure was less productive as a junior last season compared to earlier in his career, but he’ll be counted on to be a scorer. Mark Vital is a swing player, whose skill set is more suited to the interior, but Baylor will likely need him to get comfortable from the perimeter at least some of the time. Makai Mason, a transfer from Yale, is the most promising newcomer.
Returners: Tristan Clark. Newcomers: Flo Thamba, Mario Kegler, Jackson Moffatt, Matthew Mayer, Freddie Gillespie. Outlook: Clark was very good at times during his first Big 12 season. But now he’s the Bears’ only interior player with experience in Drew’s system, so he has to go from role player to leader in a hurry. The 6-foot-7 Mario Kegler has a swing-man skill set, but he has been suspended for the first six games of the season, so his progress in the Bears system might be slow. Baylor will attempt to replace last season’s senior standout Jo Lual-Acuil with 6-10 freshman Flo Thamba, though that seems like it could be a long-term project.
BEST NONCONFERENCE GAME: December 15 at Arizona.