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The Baylor Bears look to build off their success, but surpass their recent failures

The Baylor Bears basketball team is just 10 days away from starting their 2016-17 campaign. What will Baylor fans see from this rebuilt squad?

Losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament is not fun. Doing it two years in a row as a higher seeded team is much worse. However, for a program that had never before been to back-to-back NCAA tournaments, the failure is akin to a badge of honor.  This happens to even elite programs.  To be in the position to "choke" or be upset in the first round means you have to be one of the top teams for five months and put yourself into a high seed-line.  The Bears have done that the past few years. 

We saw that in 2015-16, with coming off of a 21-10 campaign, the Bears were given a 5-seed and facing off against the 12th seeded Yale Bulldogs. We all know what happened. In 2014-15, it was even more painful as a 24-10 record earned Baylor a 3-seed and a date with Georgia State. Both painful losses, in very different ways.  

You have to be in those situations to be upset, and there is a positive to that.  Baylor has advanced to the NCAA tournament in 3-straight seasons, named a 3, 5 and 6 seed in the process. This is a program that had never been to consecutive NCAA tournaments in program history and only 7 times in the previous 60+ years.  

Baylor 2016-17 Schedule  

vs  Oral Roberts  11-Nov 7:00 PM EST
vs  Oregon  15-Nov 3:30 PM EST
vs  Florida Gulf Coast  18-Nov 8:00 PM EST
vs  VCU  23-Nov 2:30 PM EST
vs  Sam Houston State 30-Nov 9:00 PM EST
vs  Xavier  3-Dec 3:30 PM EST
vs  Southern 14-Dec 7:00 PM EST
vs  Jacksonville State 17-Dec 6:00 PM EST
vs  John Brown 18-Dec 4:30 PM EST
vs  Texas Southern 21-Dec 7:30 PM EST
at  Oklahoma 30-Dec 7:00 PM EST
vs  Iowa State 4-Jan 1:00 PM EST
vs  Oklahoma State 7-Jan 1:00 PM EST
at  West Virginia 10-Jan 7:00 PM EST
at  KanSt  14-Jan 4:30 PM EST
vs  Texas 17-Jan 7:00 PM EST
at  TCU  21-Jan 8:00 PM EST
vs  Texas Tech 25-Jan 1:00 PM EST
at  Mississippi 28-Jan 6:00 PM EST
at  Kansas  1-Feb 9:00 PM EST
vs  Kansas State 4-Feb 1:00 PM EST
at  Oklahoma State 8-Feb 7:00 PM EST
vs  TCU  11-Feb 2:00 PM EST
at  Texas Tech 13-Feb 7:00 PM EST
vs  Kansas  18-Feb 1:00 PM EST
vs  Oklahoma  21-Feb 7:00 PM EST
at  Iowa State 25-Feb 1:00 PM EST
vs  West Virginia 27-Feb 7:00 PM EST
at  Texas 4-Mar 4:00 PM EST

Baylor will try once again to get back to the NCAA tournament, and this time stay a little while. It all starts on November 11th against Oral Roberts with pre-season ranked teams such as Oregon and Xavier coming to Waco in addition to the always difficult home-away setup of the Big 12.  Baylor fans will see a team with quite a few new faces, and two long-time favorites gone in Taurean Prince and Rico Gathers. 

Leading the team this year will be Jonathan Motley, the lone post man to make the preseason All-Big 12 first team. Al Freeman, who started every game last year at shooting guard, will also look to take on a larger role.  Returning starter Ish Wainright is the Bears lone senior, and maybe best all-around playmaker on both sides of the floor.  

The Roster

Number Name Position Height Wt. Yr.-Exp. Hometown/High School/Last College
30 Jonathan Davis F 6-10 215 SO-SQ Argyle, Texas/Argyle HS
25 Al Freeman G 6-3 200 JR-2L Charlotte, N.C./Findlay Prep [Nev.]
10 Tyson Jolly G 6-4 190 FR-HS Oklahoma City, Okla./Putnam City West HS
20 Manu Lecomte G 5-11 175 JR-SQ Brussels, Belgium/Athene des Pagodes/Miami
3 Jake Lindsey G 6-5 200 SO-1L Houston, Texas/Olympus HS [Utah]
0 Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. F 7-0 220 JR-SQ Melbourne, Australia/Kingsway Christian College/Neosho CC
31 Terry Maston F 6-8 230 JR-2L DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto HS
22 King McClure G 6-3 215 SO-1L Dallas, Texas/Triple A Academy
1 Wendell Mitchell G 6-3 180 RS FR-SQ Rockdale, Texas/Rockdale HS
5 Johnathan Motley F 6-10 230 JR-2L Houston, Texas/North Shore HS
21 Nuni Omot F 6-9 205 JR-TR St. Paul, Minn./Mahtomedi HS/Concordia-St. Paul/Indian Hills CC
11 Mark Vital F 6-5 230 FR-HS Lake Charles, La./Advanced Prep International [Texas]
24 Ishmail Wainright G 6-5 235 SR-3L Kansas City, Mo./Montrose Christian [Md.]

The Lineup

Center - Jonathan Motley

Forward - Terry Maston

Forward - Ish Wainright

Guard - Al Freeman

Guard - Manu Lecomte

Depth - Jo Acuil (Center), King McClure (Guard), Nuni Omot (Forward), Wendell "Chuck" Mitchell (Guard)

The Bears will return three key starters in Motley, Wainright and Freeman.  Joining them will be Manu Lecomte, the preseason newcomer of the year in the Big 12, and returning rotation player Terry Maston.  Baylor could go with a bigger unit by sliding Motley down to power forward and starting center Jo Acuil as well.  There are options in the post, but the guard rotation seems to be set. 

Season Outlook

The Big 12 is down this year, at least overall.  Well, except for Kansas who is a Top-5 caliber team and the lone national title contender on paper.  The Jayhawks are rightfully heavy favorites to win their 13th consecutive Big 12 title, a ridiculous number that just doesn't seem possible.  Outside of KU though, it is a wide open field. West Virginia, Texas, Iowa State and Oklahoma should all have solid teams and be Top-25 caliber at some point.  Even Texas Tech is looking to make a big jump this year after steady improvement under former coach Tubby Smith, who surprisingly left the Red Raiders to take on the Memphis job.  

Teams 2 through 7 are going to be very close, maybe even a single game apart in the standings when it is all said and done. Baylor should be in that group, ahead of Oklahoma State, TCU and Kansas State.  With that, another trip to the NCAA tournament is likely.  Add in tough home games against Oregon and Xavier, and the Bears will have a very difficult schedule.  20 wins against this caliber of schedule would be another good season for the Bears, but an 18 or 19-win season appears more likely. Steal one early against Oregon and Xavier, and this could be a a special season for the Baylor Bears and Scott Drew. 

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