What Scott Drew has done in Waco, Texas is nothing short of a miracle. After a scandal that included a murder, a sleezey coach, and numerous accusations, there is not a soul in America that could have called Baylor being in the Elite 8 by 2010. Scott Drew took the job after the infamous scandal at Baylor and has completely rebuilt the program from the ground up. What's interesting now is that Baylor has officially arrived on the national landscape. Last year they were a great story but this year they are expected to perform. A 7-0 record thus far, albeit against relatively weak competitoin, is a start. Saturday should be their' first real test of the season as Mark Few brings his 5-5 Gonzaga Bulldogs down to Dallas to take on the 9th ranked Baylor Bears.
What most of us Gonzaga fans are wondering is...will Gonzaga really provide them with a test?
I don't say this as a doomsdayer or a fair-weather fan; I truly believe it is a legit question. Truth be told, I don't have a definite opinion on this (although I hope to have one by the time I'm done with this preview). What I do know is that Baylor is as dangerous a team as Gonzaga has faced all year. Perhaps not as polished as a Kansas State, but equally as talented. They have, for my money, the most underrated player in the country in LaceDarius Dunn. Take whoever you want but if you want me to pick the best scorer in the country, I'm taking LaceDarius.
Uh oh. Read on after the jump.
For as dangerous, skilled, and athletic as Baylor is, they are not without weakness. In fact, their weakness this season is a glaring one. They turn the ball over at an extremely high clip for the caliber of teams they have played. 17 turnovers a game is even more than the 15 per game Gonzaga averages!
There are a couple explanations for this. First, they are still in the process of replacing Tweety Carter. Carter was outstanding at Baylor and made the team tick. Carter averaged 15 points, six assists, and a couple turnovers a game a year ago. He was without a doubt the quarterback of the offense and so far, A.J. Walton has done an admirable job replacing him, but Baylor's point guard duties are still well in flux. Secondly, they play extremely fast. If Gonzaga attempts to run up and down the court with Baylor, it could be a landslide. Their fast play combined with an inexperienced point guard does have the tendency to create a lot of turnovers, however.
There's only one way I can see Gonzaga winning this game and that is if they increase their pressure on defense. While I sure do love a reactive defense that is predicated on which type of defense, man or zone, sucks less, I think it is time for Mark Few to at least attempt to have his team set a tone on the road. Even if it is simply Demetri Goodson guarding A.J. Walton full-court by himself, you have to pressure an inexperienced point guard. He can amass turnovers in a hurry and Meech plays fantastic on-ball defense. It is a match made in heaven. Better yet, 3/4 court pressure utilizing Steven Gray and Manny Arop along with Meech would be ideal, but, we sure wouldn't want to apply too much pressure.
Like I said briefly last night, Gonzaga really has no more valid excuses to not show up tomorrow. Elias is as healthy as he's been all year, Rob Sacre is playing well, Demetri Goodson isnt' scoring in droves by he's not giving the ball to the opponent, and Steven Gray is capable of big games at a moments notice. The resiliancy they showed against Notre Dame will be paramount because Baylor is going to go on runs. They're likely going to have numerous leads of 8+ points playing in Dallas. We'll see if Mark Few's team can answer the call.
While I would love to pick the upset, I doubt the defensive adjustments are made and Baylor wins 81-66