Who would have thought the South Carolina Gamecocks would in the Sweet 16 a year ago? The NCAA Tournament ride has been unforgettable so far, but tonight stands to be the biggest game in the history of South Carolina basketball. Win or lose, you’ll remember where you were when the Gamecocks squared off with the Baylor Bears on Friday night.
Baylor, who spent one week as the No. 1 team in the country, comes in as a strong No. 3 seed following wins over the USC Trojans and the New Mexico State Aggies. What’s the scoop on the Bears? We went to Our Daily Bears to inquire with manager Kendall Kaut about this season’s iteration of Baylor Basketball.
1) Disregarding everything going on with the football program, what do you consider Baylor? A football school or a basketball school?
Baylor is for sure a football school. I like basketball more, but it's Texas. The fans care far more about football.
2) What does the Baylor fan base think about Scott Drew? He's been there it seems like forever and it seems like some national media members have soured on him.
The vast majority love Scott Drew. I did a long article trying to dispel anybody that hates: http://www.ourdailybears.com/2016/12/11/13895626/the-definitive-scott-drew-can-coach-article
It blows my mind anyone could question his coaching. Yes, nobody is perfect. But he's been to four straight NCAA Tournaments and four Sweet 16s this decade. He's winning without elite recruits (nobody on this team was ranked in the top 50). The generic Scott Drew criticism is a reminder that generic criticism can't hold up when pressed for specifics.
3) What makes this team different from the previous two seasons where Baylor was upset in round one?
Johnathan Motley is one of the best players in the country and now plays more minutes, and the defense is worlds better. The Bears have been in the top 15 of KenPom's defensive efficiency all season. That mark is a good deal better than nearly any previous Baylor team. The 2015 team really just had a bad four minutes, and R.J. Hunter went insane. The 2016 team had flaws, and Yale had a good day.
4) Speaking of Motley, Baylor's offense appears to be run through him -- what makes Motley such a good player?
Motley is a good player because he's fast, a good passer and one of the best rebounders in the country. He's 3rd in KenPom's Player of the Year metric. The man also plays good defense and can hit 2-point jumpshots at a good clip. He's the best player of the Scott Drew era.
5) Outside Motley who would you consider the second banana on this team?
Manu Lecomte is the second best offensive player. He's the point guard, and he scored 8 points in about one minute against USC. He shoots over 40% from 3-point range, and Baylor's small slide at the end of the season largely coincided with his ankle injury. Ish Wainright is Baylor's best defensive player, and he is vital in many of the Bear's sets.
6) If there's one thing that worries you about the Baylor team what would it be?
Baylor turns the ball over too much. South Carolina is obviously great at that-- you rank 4th in KenPom in that metric. Baylor games basically come down to: Motley scores 20 and gathers rebounds, Baylor turns it over a lot, and the shooting guard position scores at least 10 points.
Those areas are basically the baseline for Baylor and its usually enough to win. But when one of those gets out of whack- either Motley has an off night, the team turns it over more than 16 times, or the shooting guard spot can't score, then the Bears falter. I suspect South Carolina will make the turnover problem a big issue, but Motley will score more than usual. This should be a close battle.