TCU Basketball opens their Big 12 Conference slate Saturday afternoon in Fort Worth when they welcome the Baylor Bears into Schollmaier Arena. The Bears, NIT participants a season ago, are off to a slow start in 2018 - losses to Texas Southern and SFA mar and 8-4 record.
But, don’t count Scott Drew’s team out, as the Bears are more talented than their early-season spurt belies. We talked to Kendall Kaut of Our Daily Bears to find out if BU is capable of upending the Frogs in Fort Worth, or if it’s going to be a long season in Waco.
We threw a football question in there, too, of course.
Frogs O’ War: Baylor has been consistently excellent over the last several years, regularly making deep runs into March. The start of this campaign hasn’t gone the way Bear fans expected - do you have concerns heading into a conference play?
Kendall Kaut: Yes. I would be shocked if Baylor made the NCAA Tournament. The team ranks 322nd in 3-point percentage. It’s nearly impossible to build a functional offense with shooting like that. Texas Southern and Stephen F. Austin are brutal losses, so I think Baylor needs to go at least 10-8 to make the NCAA Tournament, and that seems very unlikely.
FOW: What are your expectations for Baylor Basketball this season, and what do they need to show in the conference opener at TCU Saturday?
KK: I expect them to go 6-12 in the conference and barely make the NIT. It’d be nice if Baylor could at least limit some of the dribble penetration of Alex Robinson and Jaylen Fisher. Robinson diced Baylor’s zone last season.
FOW: Which player or players has exceeded expectations to this point, and who needs to step up now that Big 12 play is beginning?
KK: Tristan Clark has been awesome. I think he’s the third best Big 12 player. He came into the year as a possible best player and has easily secured that. He leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage and is top three in PER, win shares and box plus/minus.
FOW: Jamie Dixon has obviously completely changed the fortunes of TCU Basketball since taking over three years ago. As a rival, what do you think of the job he’s done for the Horned Frogs, and what does TCU being competitive on the hardwood do for both Big 12 Basketball and the Baylor-TCU rivalry?
KK: He’s been phenomenal. I’m sure it’s possible someone else could have done this well, but it’s tough to envision.
It makes it much tougher for Baylor. The Bears really wanted Yuat Alok and the teams have gone head-to-head for some recruits. It makes the season much more exciting, but a rising tide does not lift all boats in competition. Both teams can be good, but it’s easier for each if the other is a little down.
FOW: What’s one matchup you’ll be paying especially close attention to between the Frogs and Bears in the opener?
KK: King McClure and Jaylen Fisher. The Bears need to probably get a near match in scoring output to win. That’s a tough ask, but there’s a reason Baylor is like a 4-1 underdog in this game.
FOW: What’s your prediction for the game?
KK: I have TCU winning 68-60. The Horned Frogs prove a little too much offensively, and Baylor struggles to score on any non-Tristan Clark touches. Jamie Dixon elected not to double Johnathan Motley a few years ago and suffered. I expect he’ll double Clark, and that will prevent Baylor from being competitive late in the game.
FOW Bonus Question: Baylor closed their football season with a really nice win over an SEC team, and brings back a bunch of talent on the offensive side of the ball. What are you most excited about for 2019, and are you at all worried about losing Rhule to the NFL?
KK: I am most excited about another year of Charlie Brewer. He was exceptional against Vanderbilt, and if he plays like that next season, Baylor should win at least eight games.
I am worried about that. I think he’s probably back at Baylor next season, but my guess is that he ends up in the NFL or at Penn State before too long. My hope is that we get one more year of offensive coaches landing NFL job.
If leaving for the NFL happens after this season, it means things have gone well in Waco, and I’d take it.
The Bears and Horned Frogs tip-off at 3:00pm Saturday, January 5th in Fort Worth, at Schollmaier Arena. Thanks again to Kendall and the folks at ODB!