Monday, April 27, 2009

Baylor Goes Scavenging, Finds Gold

Arguably no team in the nation has benefited more (indirectly) from the array of coaching moves than Baylor. They had already collected Nolan Dennis from John Calipari's now infamous Memphis recruiting class. And now they have grabbed Mark McLaughlin, a shooting guard who was released from his letter of intent by Nevada after Mark Fox jumped to Georgia. I can't give you a good link for this story right now, because the article is behind a registration wall, but you can see excited Baylor fans discussing it here. ESPN has it also.

It's easy to ignore Baylor's chances in 2009-10: They went 5-11 in a Big 12 Conference that didn't get a lot of national respect. They lose three starters to graduation, including their best player (Curtis Jerrells). But remember, there's a difference between a team's resume and a team's ability. Some teams end up being a whole lot better than their record indicates, as Baylor proved with their great runs in the Big 12 tournament and the NIT. Georgia Tech, Oregon and Virginia Tech are a couple of schools that come to mind when talking about teams that were better than their records in 2008-09, but two teams were just really, really much better than their record: Georgetown and Baylor. A big mistake a lot of analysts will make when rating teams in the preseason will be to judge Baylor as a 5-11 Big 12 team that loses three starters. I'd rather view them as the 27th best team in the country (according to the most reliable computer ratings on the internet) that loses three starters but also brings in a stellar recruiting class.

Let's go through Baylor's projected lineup:

Kevin Rogers, Tweety Carter, LaceDarius Dunn, Quincy Acy and Josh Lomers all started 10 or more games last season, and all will be back. LaceDarius Dunn is the best scorer of the bunch, and should lead the team in points next season. He will start at shooting guard. Tweety Carter will likely start at the point. Kevin Rogers is a load inside, and he was the best post player that Baylor had last season, so he will definitely start at the 4 or 5 spot. Quincy Acy is a decent small forward who will get 20-25 minutes per game next season, even if he doesn't start. Lomers is a 7-footer who is still growing into his body and struggled to stay on the floor and out of foul trouble last season.

As for the incomers, first we have Ekpe Udoh, a transfer from Michigan (a stellar post defender who collected 6 points and 5 rebounds per game in 2007-08 for the Wolverines). Nolan Dennis became Baylor's best recruit when they snapped him up from Memphis, and he's a 6'5" two guard. Mark McLaughlin is a quality point guard recruit, although I wouldn't expect him to play too much as a Freshman. A.J. Walton is actually a higher rated point guard recruit. The best big man recruit is probably Givon Crump, although he's a bit undersized at 6'7", 205 pounds. He'll have to put some weight on. One last player to keep an eye on is Anthony Jones, the best recruit from Baylor's '08 class. He only played 9 minutes per game as a Freshman, mostly because he was just too skinny and didn't play well enough back in the fall. Expect him to play a much larger role as a Sophomore.

I actually think that Nolan Dennis will start and Baylor will go with a three guard lineup. I think Quincy Acy will be the fifth starter. Josh Lomers will get extended playing time, but I don't think he'll be ready to go 30 minutes per game. Crump, Jones and Udoh should all get extended time off the bench as well. Don't be surprised to see either Walton or McLaughlin redshirt, but either of them would be productive in 8-15 minutes per game if they get the chance.

A few weeks ago I rated Baylor eighth in a Big 12 Conference that should get six or seven Tournament teams. I had them as one of the teams that was seriously considered for an at-large bid to the Dance but was left out. But that was before the two new recruits. McLaughlin should turn out to be a quality signing, even though I wouldn't expect too much next season. But Nolan Dennis is a great signing who will pay off immediately. And I have a lot of faith in Scott Drew, who is one of the best young coaches in the nation. At this point, I plan on moving Baylor into the bracket when the next BP65 comes out in about a month. The future is bright for Baylor.


Ashleyhodge said...

A Baylor fan here- thanks for the pub. Scott Drew is building a very good program at Baylor.

Two comments on the article:

1. Kevin Rogers graduated.
2. Cory Jefferson- 6'9" 200 lbs recruit needs to be mentioned. He was a 5-star rivals guy for a good part of the year. He ended up a 4-star at # 51 on the final rivals list.

Baylor coaches say Udoh is their best all around player. They think he is a 15 pt 10 reb 3 blk guy...

Jeff said...

Thanks for the info. I thought Rogers had Junior eligibility last season. Did he "graduate" as in he's out of eligibility, or did he "graduate" as in he will play one more season as a graduate student?

I agree that if Rogers is indeed gone then Udoh is the one who steps into the starting lineup. His offense is questionable, but he's a great athlete and a great post defender. He'll guard the other team's best big man every game.

Anonymous said...

Givon Crump is a true wing at 6'7", 215 pounds. He plays outside, but will post up smaller players and he can defend the 2,3 and 4 positions. He has NBA 3 point range and some writers believe that one of the best long range shooters in the class of 2009. Anyone who has seen him does not consider him as a "big". Take a look at the youtube posting of him and you may understand the value that Scott Drew finds in him at the wing position.

Jeff said...

I agree that Crump is a good recruit, and I also agree that he's not a "big." We can disagree on whether he needs to put some weight on (6'7", 205 is too skinny to play at a high level unless you've got Kevin Durant-like speed and skills, which Crump doesn't have at this point). But either way, for the time being I think his size keeps him out of the starting lineup for the coming season.

If Crump starts then that means one of two things:

1) you're going with a 2 guard lineup, along with 2 bigs. This means Nolan Dennis has to come off the bench.

2) you're going with Crump at the 4, with a 3 guard lineup. But then who plays the 5? A lineup with 3 guards, Crump and Udoh is going to be too small.

No, I think Crump comes off the bench. Whenever one of the three top guards comes off the floor then you can go with a 2-guard lineup with Crump at the 3, Udoh at the 4 and one of Baylor's bigs at the 5. I think that type of lineup will have a lot of success.

That also sets you up for a nice potential lineup of Dunn, Dennis, Crump, Udoh and Jefferson in 2010-11. That assumes that nobody goes pro, but that is a pretty good lineup, no?

Jeff said...

By the way, you are right about Rogers, he's out of eligibility. And I don't know how I forgot to mention Cory Jefferon. That gives Baylor even more options off the bench. In fact, since he does seem to be a very similar type of player to Kevin Rogers, he could end up filling a lot of the same roles.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, I agree with your potential 2009-2010, lineups but I don't agree with your thoughts about a 6'7" 215 lb wing who need to gain weight. That is as close to prototypical hight and weight for a wing as you will find in any league. I am surprised that you did not comment on the 2009 recruit that must pick up some weight that is Corey Jefferson. I am more concerned about his weight than Crump's. Jefferson at 6'9", 200lbs could have problems at the 4 position in the Big 12. Jefferson is a better comparison to Durant than Crump. Take a look at the highlights(youtube).

Jeff said...

I agree that Crump can be successful at that size. But if he doesn't put on weight then he won't start next season. That was why I ran through the starting lineups... you're only starting Crump if you sit Dennis, because of the size issue, and I think Dennis is the better and more important player to have getting heavy minutes next season.

Crump could develop into a very good player, and I think he has a great chance of starting in 2010-11.

And you are right about Jefferson, he also needs to put on a little bit of weight. Like Crump, I expect him to earn decent time off the bench as a Freshman, and then to move into the starting lineup (if all goes well) as a Sophomore.

Jeff said...

By the way, I've seen him listed at 205, not 215. Where did you see the 215 number? At 6'7" 205, he compares to Kevin Durant who is 6'9" 215. You can't be as skinny as Kevin Durant and play the 4. And it's tough to be as skinny as Durant and be a successful player unless you are incredibly quick and skilled (as Durant is).

If Crump can get up to 215 then I agree, that's pretty much the prototypical body size for a swing forward.

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