5 Things - Let Basketball Begin!

With the college football regular season all over, bowl season here is. Well, that and the playoffs, if anyone wants to pay attention to that. Here are 5-Things that got me thinking today.

1. Senior Quarterback Bryce Petty finished 10th in the Heisman vote this year, and even garnered one 1st place vote. Of course, Petty finished 7th last year, so with back-to-back Top-10 Heisman finishes, his career is a single Cotton Bowl game away from being over. Petty has said that this year has not gone like he thought it would, at least individually. The back injury he suffered against SMU early in that game set him back quite a bit. Probably more than Petty would want to admit. He has almost 900 fewer yards this year than last. Yes, that is in 2-fewer games, but he also has 6 interceptions, compared to 2 last year. His completion percentage is pretty much the exact same (62% vs. 62.1%) but his yards per attempt is down from an otherworldly 10.4 to a more really good 8.8. His total touchdowns are also down from 46 to 31.

However, there is an alternate universe out there somewhere that never saw Petty get hurt early in that SMU game. A place where what we saw the last three weeks ( 70-94, 74.45% completion percentage, 884 yards, 7 total touchdowns, 9.4 yards per attempt) was what we got all year. That would be a place with a much higher than 10th place finish in the Heisman vote, and possibly a Top-5 one. It might also have been a place where the Bears aren’t at the Cotton Bowl and instead are well…

2. The Baylor Basketball team is ranked 26th in the nation according to the USA Today AP Poll. Baylor is behind Michigan State, and just ahead of conference rival TCU. The Bears are looking to be ranked for the 7th consecutive season. That is second only to Kansas in the Big 12. The Bears are 8-1 on the year with some solid wins on their resume already. They have been ranked as 24th by Joe Lunardi of ESPN in his Bracketology rankings. They are at 13th in the nation according to KenPom.com.

This is a really good basketball team right now, and they are getting their starting point guard just in time for conference play. Kenny Chery had missed the previous four games, before coming back to play against Texas A&M in the Bears 77-63 win last week. This week, they play New Mexico State, followed by Southern and Norfolk State. The Bears should be heavy favorites in all-three games and with an 11-1 record, will almost certainly be ranked in the Top-25 for their conference opener at Oklahoma.

3. What makes the Bears so good this year? It all starts with their defense. A big question mark coming into the season after losing two dominant post defenders in Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson, the Bears lack of size was supposed to hurt them this year. However, with a glut of athletic wing players on the roster, Coach Drew has gone quick and agile at the shooting guard, small forward and power forward spots.

At any time, the Bears can have a 6-foot-6, 6-foot-7, and a 6-foot-9 player at the shooting guard, small forward and power forward spot. With Chery back, they will probably stick with Medford alongside him at the off-guard spot, but when the Bears want or need to go big, they can go very big on the wings. That allows the defense to be ultra-long at the top of the zone, something that the Bears rarely have ever been able to do. Having a 6-foot-6 defensive ace like Royce O’Neale being at the top of the key taking away the free throw area is a big-time weapon for the Bears defense and something the opposition has focused on in the past, but have not yet adjusted away from yet.

4. With Chery back though, the question should be who will go to the bench? Taurean Prince was originally coming off of the bench to start the year, but can you really bench your best scorer, and a guy that has taken a HUGE step forward on the defensive side of the ball? Prince had a total of 9-blocks his first two years in Waco. He has 9 already in about 400 lesser minutes. The junior forward is still not a great rebounder, but his scoring and activity on defense are truly carrying the Bears at times.

They probably won’t send Royce O’Neale to the bench, the Bears most indispensable player and leader this year. Yes, O’Neale’s 3-point shot has been up and down this year, but his ability to get in the right places on offense and defense, command the weak-side rebounds and hit open shots is something the Bears can’t replace. What about freshman post Jonathan Motley? Before the last game, he was a prime candidate to take a bench role and get his confidence back, but a 22 point, 11 rebound game against the Aggies put him right back into the mix.

These are good problems to have. The Bears have too many guys that could start for them. That is like complaining that the Wi-Fi on the airplane doesn’t work. You are flying! Deal with it. The Bears have 3-tune up games to figure it out, but they will need to get it all straightened out for conference play, which starts with a trip to Oklahoma followed up by Kansas coming to town.

5. Marcus Mariota won the Heisman trophy this weekend, something that I was very happy to see. First off, he was my pick to win it the last two years, so nice for me to finally get something right. Second, I have been impressed with him since he first broke on the scene 3 years ago. To me, he was the best freshman quarterback in the country that year (over a Jonathan Football from some SEC school) until injuries started to pile up and slow him down. He is the 5th quarterback in a row to win it, and the 13th in the last 14 years (if you don’t count Reggie Bush’s “win” that didn’t happen). Frankly put, this is a quarterback award now.

To me, the most dominant player in college football this year was Amari Cooper. He was tremendous for Alabama all season-long. He is the best wide receiver I have seen in college since Calvin Johnson. However, a wide receiver hasn’t won it since 1991 when Desmond Howard secured the trophy. If you remember though, a lot of Howard’s value was also in the return game as well, something that the Tide did not have Cooper do. A non-QB is going to have to have an amazing year to win it, and for it to not be a running back either, they are truly going to have to special.

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