Originally posted on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 10/13/13
For more preseason coverage of the 2013-14 college basketball season, click here. This year's Baylor Bears have the odd distinction of winning a title they'd like to avoid defending. The defending NIT champions will hope for bigger and better things this season, mainly, an appearance in that other postseason tournament (and no, I'm not talking about the CBI). Baylor's biggest strength lies in the front court. It's not a reach to say Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson could combine to be the best pair of big men in the nation this season. The two had nearly identical stat lines last year: Austin posted 13.3 points, eight rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game, while Jefferson averaged 13 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks. Austin is one of the most versatile big men in country, able to put the ball on the deck and shoot from distance. Jefferson broke out last season with his first chance at starter's minutes, averaging a team-high 61 percent FG%, and should continue to improve as a more focal point of the team his senior year. Both could average a double-double. As if Austin and Jefferson weren't enough, Baylor's opponents will also have to deal with forwards Rico Gathers and Ishmail Wainwright. Both of them are extremely physical, capable of dominating smaller opponents on either side of the court. Gathers averaged 5.7 RPG in just 16.7 minutes per game last season, and should continue to help the Bears control the glass this year. Wainwright can finish at the rim and will provide solid defense on the wing. The biggest loss for the Bears from last season was their smallest player, 5'10" point guard Pierre Jackson. He led the team in points and assists (averaging 19.8 and 7.1 per game, respectively) and was the engine of the offense, using 30.5% of the team's possessions with him on the floor. The scoring load can be picked up by Brady Heslip (38.6 3PG% last season), freshman Allerick Freeman, and junior college transfer Kenny Chery. But you have to wonder if this cast can compensate for Jackson's ability to distribute the ball. Heslip is primarily a shooter and Freeman is better suited on the wing. Chery, who will be the starting point guard, averaged 3.7 APG at State Fair Community College last season. That's not encouraging for a team that relied heavily on Jackson's playmaking. The backcourt could also get a boost if Denver transfer Royce O'Neale is granted eligibility. The Killeen, TX native requested a hardship waiver from the NCAA so he could be closer to his sick grandfather. Having a fourth guard would be especially important for this squad considering they lack the individual brilliance of a guy like Jackson. Ultimately, this team will go as far as the big men will carry them. There aren't many teams in the country that have one body to match Austin and Jefferson, let alone two to cover both. This goes especially for when the Bears enter Big 12 play. Baylor is a strong pick to finish third behind Kansas and Oklahoma State. But between those two teams, only Kansas' Joel Embiid has the size and skill to compete with Austin and Jefferson down low. Those two need to perform well to keep Baylor competitive, likely on a nightly basis. Despite the extra pressure, any uptick in production from either one (more likely from Austin) could warrant All-America consideration and success for the Bears.

This article first appeared on The Sports Post and was syndicated with permission.

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Well, the Cavs should trade LeBron now

Report: Knicks open to trading Carmelo, picks for Kyrie

Report: Kyrie Irving asked Cavs to trade him

Landon Collins: Giants will ‘definitely’ topple Cowboys atop NFC East

Are the Cowboys bracing for possible Elliott suspension?

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Simpson parole board member opens up about Chiefs tie

Draymond Green calls out Damian Lillard

Pacman Jones suspended for Week 1 of upcoming season

Stenson had rental home robbed at Open Championship

Report: Carmelo would waive $8M trade kicker for Rockets

Report: Rangers shopping Yu Darvish in trade talks

The 'Pay that man his money' quiz

The National League Wild Card is suddenly relevant again

Kicking It: USMNT struggles to find consistency in Gold Cup as World Cup qualifying nears

Three Up, Three Down: The Dodgers are a complete juggernaut right now

Who won the Open Championship in the year you were born?

Box Score 7/21: Stay cool this weekend sports fans

BIG3 Week 5: Pivotal make-or-break weekend in Chicago

The 'Let's show a little love for James Jones' quiz

Making an NFL GM change in the summer has its benefits

Every NFL team’s biggest question as training camps start

Box Score 7/20: Nothing but Nolan

The 'Yoan Moncada era starts now' quiz

College Basketball News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The National League Wild Card is suddenly relevant again

The 'Pay that man his money' quiz

BIG3 Week 5: Pivotal make-or-break weekend in Chicago

The 'Let's show a little love for James Jones' quiz

Making an NFL GM change in the summer has its benefits

The 'Yoan Moncada era starts now' quiz

The Orioles need to unwind past deals if they are going to rebuild

BIG3 Referee Hotline Bling: Sam Hinkie is calling the shots

The 'No one is betterer than Roger Federer' quiz

The 'Youth in baseball is cyclical' quiz

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker