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September 19, 2008


Head coach: Scott Drew
Last season: 21-11 overall, 9-7 in Big 12.
Postseason: Lost 90-79 to Purdue in first round of NCAA Tournament.
Breakdown: Probable starters | Backcourt | Frontcourt | Offense | Defense | Outlook

BACKCOURT

The perimeter-oriented Bears can trot out four guards as good as any collection in the country. Seniors Curtis Jerrells and Henry Dugat, junior Tweety Carter and sophomore LaceDarius Dunn are each capable of leading the team in scoring in any given game. They took turns doing so last season while powering the Bears to their first NCAA bid since 1988.

Curtis Jerrells leads the way for what is a loaded and deep Baylor backcourt.

PROBABLE STARTING FIVE
G Curtis Jerrells, 6-1/Sr.
15.3 ppg, 3.8 apg
G Tweety Carter, 5-10/Jr.
9.6 ppg, 40.4% 3-pt
G Henry Dugat, 6-0/Sr.
12.2 ppg, 38.6% 3-pt
F Quincy Acy, 6-7/Fr.
True freshman
F Kevin Rogers, 6-9/Sr.
12.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg
TOP RESERVES
G LaceDarius Dunn, 6-4/Soph.
13.6 ppg, 41.6% 3-pt
F Anthony Jones, 6-9/Fr.
True freshman
C Mamadou Diene, 7-0/Sr.
3.3 ppg, 1.6 bpg
C Josh Lomers, 7-0/Jr.
3.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg
For the most part, the quartet is interchangeable parts. Each can bring the ball up or play on the wing. But Jerrells is the one who may be irreplaceable. The offense revolves around his ability to penetrate and draw multiple defenders. Quick and athletic, he excels at finishing around the basket.

Dunn, who may be the most dangerous of the bunch, emerged as one of the best sixth men in the nation last season. A great 3-point shooter with a quick release, Dunn ranked third in the Big 12 in 3-point field-goal percentage (41.6 percent, 74 of 178). He averaged 13.6 points despite not starting a game. He was able to provide such a big lift off the bench that the Bears may use him in the same role again.

Carter also ranks among the Big 12's top 3-point shooters, having knocked down 40.4 percent (55 of 136) of his attempts from beyond the arc. He's also a reliable ballhandler and a good decision-maker with the ball in his hands.

Dugat, who will be a four-year starter, may be the most well-rounded member of the group. He can attack off the dribble, shoot from the outside and also is a good defender who often matches up with the opponent's top perimeter scorer.

With so many proven guards, coach Scott Drew frequently will use all four on the court at the same time, creating matchup issues for virtually any defense.

FRONTCOURT

The Bears are built around their deep crop of speedy guards, but junior power forward Kevin Rogers was their most valuable player last season. Rogers gave the undersized team an inside scoring threat and kept the Bears from getting dominated on the glass. An athletic big man with a soft shooting touch, he averaged close to a double-double (12.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg). None of the other post players averaged close to half that many points or boards.

The hope is that two freshmen 6-9 small forward Anthony Jones and 6-7 power forward Quincy Acy can keep the Bears from being so reliant on Rogers and add some much-needed depth. The Bears won recruiting battles against a handful of high-profile programs to land each.

Acy, the No. 84 prospect in the 2008 class, will play significant minutes immediately and may start. A true post player who runs the court well, Acy needs to help on the glass and bolster the Bears' interior defense.

Jones, the No. 44 prospect, will create matchup problems with his size and shooting range, which extends beyond the new 3-point line. Jones also can defend multiple positions. He'll be part of the rotation and likely one of the first players off the bench.

The Bears also have two 7-foot centers in senior Mamadou Diene and junior Josh Lomers, who split time last season. Neither has done much offensively in the past, but Diene is a terrific shot-blocker and can make scoring on the inside difficult. The Bears are hoping Lomers, a top-100 prospect coming out of high school, will make some strides so they can take advantage of his size.

OFFENSE

Drew gives his guards an extraordinary amount of freedom, and that has led to an extremely fast-paced and high-scoring attack. The Bears led the Big 12 in scoring at 81.3 points per game last season. Instead of running a lot of set plays, the guards, who have the green light to shoot from just about anywhere at any time, rely on beating their man off the dribble then finding teammates for open looks from 3-point range.

DEFENSE

The Bears have little basketball history at least the good kind but last season's breakthrough should not be viewed as an anomaly. All the key pieces return, including a talented group of guards that would start for most top-25 teams. A good recruiting class adds more depth. The Bears will continue to be a difficult matchup because of their offensive ability. Defense probably will remain a weakness. But as long as the Bears can at least slow their opponents a bit, they'll be back in the NCAA Tournament. This season, they won't have to sweat another Selection Sunday. The Big 12 isn't as strong as last season, and the non-conference schedule is relatively mild. We believe they'll have an at-large bid locked up by the start of the league tournament.
With three and sometimes four guards on the court at the same time, the Bears frequently will mix in zone defenses in an effort to hide their lack of size. Last season, they alternated between 2-3 and 3-2 zones, but neither was particularly effective. The Bears gave up 74.9 points a game, the most of any Big 12 team.

SHOES TO FILL

G Aaron Bruce. The Bears have more than enough firepower to replace Bruce's 8.4 points per game. But his loss does mean the backcourt isn't quite as deep, making staying out of foul trouble and avoiding injuries slightly more important.

MUST STEP UP

Acy. If the Bears are going to take that next step and become a real threat to advance past the first weekend, they must get better on the inside. That's where Acy can help. If he develops quickly and gives defenses a big man to be worry about besides Rogers, the Bears are going to be much more formidable in March.

IMPACT NEWCOMER

Jones. A four-star recruit, Jones has the makings of a future All-Big 12 player. Long and athletic, he has a smooth shooting stroke and deep range. His offense and versatility will be valuable assets immediately.

Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at askwara@rivals.com.



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