We reached out to Our Daily Bears, SB Nation’s Baylor blog, to get an inside viewpoint about tomorrow’s matchup. See the brief back and forth below (please note that the email exchange happened earlier this week).
TSSF: Gonzaga ever so narrowly topped Baylor for the preseason No. 1 ranking in the AP Poll. Obviously, we are just two games into the season, so long lasting takeaways are in short supply, but initial take: Is Baylor looking as good as advertised?
ODB: Yes. The Bears have not played an opponent close to the quality of Kansas, but they dominated both opponents, including eviscerating Washington by 34.
TSSF: Last year, the name of the game for Baylor was defense, and for Gonzaga it was offense. Assuming with both teams that is still how it works, what does Baylor need to do on the defensive end to stop the Gonzaga machine?
ODB: Gonzaga’s unique challenge is that the guards are so phenomenal you can’t focus on Drew Timme, and Timme is so amazing that you can’t ignore the guards and key on him.
The Bears need to find a way to defend Timme without giving up open shots or drives. I think Timme is the most worrying guy with Baylor losing Freddie Gillespie off their great defense.
Baylor’s defense is not to the level of the offense. They have to play better than they did against Louisiana to have a shot against the Bulldogs.
TSSF: Who do you think is the under-the-radar Baylor player that Gonzaga fans need to look out for?
ODB: Probably Jonathan Tchwamwa Tchatchousa The former UNLV transfer will get a lot of minutes defending Timme, and he’s a quality athlete. Baylor’s guards are well-known, and he’ll present a unique challenge.
TSSF: This game can go either way. What has to happen for Baylor to win, and on the flipside, what will go wrong if Baylor loses?
ODB: If Baylor wins, the guards prove a bit too much for Gonzaga’s backcourt. The Bears also probably shot well from deep, and Timme doesn’t eviscerate Baylor’s less experienced post defenders.
If Gonzaga wins, Timme probably has a big game, and Jalen Suggs proves to be too good for Davion Mitchell to limit. Even when Baylor limits them, Kispert goes off for a few big threes to prevent Baylor from coming back.
TSSF: Can I dare you for a score prediction?
ODB: My confidence level is very low in this, but I’ll take Baylor 66-65. West Virginia plays a radically different style than Baylor, and Illinois is way different than Gonzaga. But I’m interested in seeing both teams play two quality games. I would not be shocked at all if Gonzaga won, or even won handily, but I think the Bears backcourt does enough to get a very close win.