Baylor Bears

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Baylor F Nuni Omot serves up vicious poster dunk

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The college basketball season isn’t even a week old and there’s already been a dunk that will likely make all of the end-of-season highlight montages come April. Baylor senior forward Nuni Omot was responsible for the dunk, which came with just over two minutes remaining in the Bears’ 70-46 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

Forward Elijah Schmidt did what he could to prevent the dunk, so he deserves some credit for not simply moving out of the way. That being said, he was overmatched on this one.

Yale’s Makai Mason will transfer to Baylor after next season

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Yale junior guard Makai Mason will transfer to Baylor … but not until the fall of 2018.

Sources confirmed to NBC Sports on Thursday evening that Mason will graduate from Yale next spring and will enroll at Baylor, eligible to play immediately for the 2018-19 season.

Andrew Slater of 247Sports first reported the news.

According to a source, he committed to Baylor after taking a visit in April.

Mason was the Ivy League Preseason Player of the Year but missed all of this past season due to a foot injury he suffered during a scrimmage. An archaic Ivy League rule prohibits student-athletes from redshirting due to athletic reasons. Student-athletes can apply for a fifth year but only if it’s based on academic reasons. It is the Ancient Eight’s way of emphasizing academics over athletics.

There’s a loophole, though. Withdrawing from the university and being readmitted for the following fall semester preserves that year of eligibility. Alex Rosenberg dropped out of Columbia in October 2014 when he suffered a fracture in his right foot only to return for his senior season next fall. Harvard point guard Siyani Chambers did the same thing, leaving school after tearing his ACL two summers ago. However, both of those injuries were at least conveniently timed. By the time Mason suffered his season-ending injury he was more than halfway through the semester.

The plan of finishing out the school year — and his undergraduate at Yale — and becoming an eventual graduate transfer was in his best interest. Mason, who declared for the NBA Draft in 2016 without hiring an agent, gets to earn a degree from an Ivy League school and then can use his final season of eligibility to prepare for the 2019 NBA Draft at a high-major school.

I’m sure any talks about Mason’s inevitable departure weren’t some of the best conversations the Yale coaching staff had but there doesn’t appear to be any sort of strained relationship. Two weeks ago, he was named the captain of this year’s team.

For Baylor, this is obviously a tremendous addition, especially with Manu Lecomte exhausting his eligibility at the end of the 2017-18 season.

Scott Drew and the Bears are very familiar with the type of offensive firepower Mason will bring to the program. He did hang 31 points on Baylor back in 2016 when the Bulldogs upset the Bears, 79-75, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Baylor’s Freeman to graduate and transfer

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Baylor is losing one of its contributors over the past three seasons.

Al Freeman, a 6-foot-3 guard, will graduate and transfer to another school, the Bears announced Tuesday.

“Al has been a tremendous student-athlete and made great contributions to our program over the last four years, and we’re thrilled that he’s going to complete his degree at Baylor,” Bears coach Scott Drew said in a statement. “He’ll always be part of the Baylor family, and we’ll be rooting for him as he continues his career.”

Freeman, who redshirted his freshman year due to a broken wrist, started 57 games during his career in Waco and averaged 8.6 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. He was a full-time starter as a sophomore, but made just 22 this past season and saw his minutes slashed.

As a graduate transfer, the Charlotte native will be immediately eligible at his next program for his final collegiate season.

No. 3 Baylor ends No. 11 USC’s tournament run

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After comeback wins over Providence in the first four and No. 6 seed SMU in the first round, it looked like No. 11 seed Southern Cal’s second-round matchup with No. 3 seed Baylor was going to follow the same script.

The Trojans erased another double-digit deficit and had all the momentum in the final minutes of regulation, but a third Hollywood ending would not take place on Sunday night in Tulsa, as Manu Lecomte caught fire, leading the Bears to an 82-78 win to advance to the Sweet 16.

It was when USC took a 67-65 lead that Lecomte finally got in the scoring column, and it couldn’t have come at a more critical time for Baylor. Several minutes earlier, Johnathan Motley found himself on the bench with his fourth personal foul. In the span of less than a minute, the 5-foot-11 redshirt junior guard converted on a four-point play, knocked down another set of free throws and connected on a lay-up; an individual 8-0 run that the Bears up 73-65 heading into the final official TV timeout.

In the first round, Lecomte was quiet offensively, scoring 10 points — off 3-of-9 shooting — against No. 14 seed New Mexico State. It marked only the sixth time all season the Belgium native failed to make a 3-point field goal.

He went on to score 12 points, all of them coming in the final five minutes. Motley, who fouled out 90 seconds left, finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Terry Matson had 19 off the bench. King McClure scored 14 of his 17 in the first half.

Chimezie Metu had a game-high 28 points. Bennie Boatwright ended with 16.

USC trailed Providence by 17 in the First Four and was behind by a dozen to SMU in the first round before pulling off two improbable comebacks.

Baylor advances to the Sweet 16 to play the winner of No. 2 seed Duke and No. 7 seed South Carolina.

 

March Madness 2017: Big 12 Tournament Preview, Bracket and Conference Postseason Awards

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Big 12 Player of the Year: Frank Mason III, Kansas

Mason’s play this season makes him the no-brainer conference player of the year and perhaps the frontrunner for the national award. He’s averaging 20.5 points, 5.1 assists and 4.2 rebounds while shooting 48.8 percent from the field and a sizzling 49.3 percent from 3-point range for the potential No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.

Big 12 Coach of the Year: Bill Self, Kansas

There was a temptation to reward Brad Underwood for Oklahoma State’s turnaround, but it’s impossible not to recognize Self leading his program not only to a 13th-straight conference title, but doing it by four games in the country’s toughest league. Kansas may have the top talent in the league year in and year out, but Self’s presence on the sideline guarantees it comes together year in and year out. This season was no exception.

First-Team All-Big 12:

  • Frank Mason III, Kansas (POY)
  • Monte Morris, Iowa State: The nation’s leader in assist-to-turnover ratio is as consistent an elite presence on the floor as there is in the country.
  • Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State: The most dynamic and important piece of the country’s best offense, Evans averaged 18.7 points per game.
  • Josh Jackson, Kansas: Mason is Kansas’ MVP, but Jackson is the Jayhawks’ most difficult matchup and is a likely top-five NBA draft pick.
  • Johnathan Motley, Baylor: The big man doubled his rebounding output this season to average a double-double of 17.5 points and 10 rebounds per game.

Second Team All-Big 12:

  • Jevon Carter, West Virginia
  • Jeffrey Carroll, Oklahoma State
  • Devonte Graham, Kansas
  • Deonte Burton, Iowa State
  • Jo Lual-Acuil, Baylor

RELATED: Player of the Year | Coach of the Year | NBC Sports All-Americans

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The thought was coming into the year that the Big 12 would be down this season, but for the fourth-straight year it ranked as the country’s best conference by KenPom. Another thing that didn’t change was Kansas winning the league, making it 13 in a row for the Jayhawks. The league isn’t going to send a huge number to the NCAA tournament this season, but make no mistake, the conference’s round-robin schedule was a grind, making it all the more impressive Kansas cleared the league by four games.

The Bracket

When: March 8-11

Where: Sprint Center; Kansas City, Mo.

Final: Saturday, March 11, 6 p.m.

Favorite: Kansas

The Jayhawks are clearly the class of the Big 12, winning the conference by its largest margin since 2010. Kansas isn’t invulnerable at the Sprint Center, as the rest of the league has more than enough firepower to threaten them, but there’s no argument that makes anyone else the favorite.

And if they lose?: West Virginia

The Mountaineers should have swept Kansas this year. They rocked them in Morgantown, but blew a late lead in spectacular fashion in Lawrence later in the season. Their Press Virginia style seems to seriously bother the Jayhawks, and it could make for a raucous title game.

MORGANTOWN, WV - JANUARY 24: Head coach Bob Huggins of the West Virginia Mountaineers reacts to a call in the second half during the game against the Kansas Jayhawks at WVU Coliseum on January 24, 2017 in Morgantown, West Virginia. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
Bob Huggins (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

Other Contenders:

  • Baylor: The Bears went 2-4 against the top-four of the conference, but their length and the talent of Johnathan Motley makes them an intriguing matchup
  • Iowa State: The Cyclones have won six of their last seven and three members of their core — Monte Morris, Naz Mitrou-Long and Matt Thomas — who have won two Big 12 tournament titles in their career. They’ve also have claimed wins against each of the other top teams in the league this year.

Sleeper: Oklahoma State

The Cowboys opened the Big 12 slate with six-straight losses, but then won nine of 10 before ending the season with losses to Iowa State and Kansas. Their defense is porous, but their top-ranked KenPom offense, led by point guard Jawun Evans, makes them a legitimate threat to reel off three wins in three days.

The Bubble Dwellers: One

  • Kansas State: Most projections have the Wildcats just on the bad side of the field of 68 line, which means they’ll probably have to score a win against Baylor in the quarterfinals to move the needle. Depending on what happens around the rest of the country, that one more win could be enough to earn a berth.

Defining moment of the season: Kansas erasing a 14-point deficit in the final three minutes at home against West Virginia. This is Peak Phog Allen.

CBT Prediction: Kansas

Motley plays big in No. 11 Baylor’s win over No. 10 West Virginia

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Even as Baylor has floundered some down the stretch, the Bears have been able to count on Johnathan Motley being a monster. The 6-foot-10 forward has been putting up numbers and shooting up draft boards.

Against No. 10 West Virginia, he showed off all his skills – and it resulted in a win, as the 11th-ranked Bears topped the Mountaineers, 71-62, in Waco on Monday in a much-needed victory.

Motley was superb once again, going for 23 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and two assists in 35 minutes. He shot it well from the field, going 6 of 12, but was a perfect 11 of 11 from the free-throw line. It was a big-time performance, especially with point guard Manu Lecomte out with an ankle injury.

Monday was nothing particularly special in terms of performance from Motley as he’s been consistently great during Big 12 play. He had 27 and 11 against Iowa State and 21 and 16 against Oklahoma just last week alone. He’s been overshadowed some by Baylor’s early season success – the story was the Bears and coach Scott Drew, not Motley – and that Frank Mason is not only the no-doubt Big 12 player of the year, but maybe the frontrunner for the national award as well.

He’s been really, really good.

Motley is averaging just short of a double-double with 17.3 points and 9.8 rebounds along with 1.0 blocks per game. He’s not the double-double machine of Caleb Swanigan, but he’s got nine during Big 12 play. He also put up 32 points and 20 rebounds against Texas. There aren’t many better performances than that around the country.

Against the Mountaineers, Motley struggled some early, going 1 of 5 from the field with just four points in the first half. He made five of his next seven shots, though, and made nine second-half free throws to score 19 after the break to get Baylor in the win column after a three-losses-in-four-games stretch.

Jo Lual-Acuil rightfully gets a ton of credit for being the anchor of Baylor’s defense, but pairing the 7-footer with Motley is what makes the Bears’ defense so stout. Teams have an effective field goal percentage of just 44.8 against the Bears and are making just 43.8 percent of their shots inside the arc. The length of Lual-Acuil and Motley is a huge reason why.

The game was somewhat rare for West Virginia as the Mountaineers forced 18 turnovers, which was at a rate of 26.5 percent (better than their Big 12 average), and still lost. Some of it certainly can be attributed to the absence of forward Esa Ahmad, who was out with a back injury, but 3 of 15 shooting from 3-point range was a killer overall.

West Virginia and Baylor are jockeying with Iowa State for second place in the Big 12, but if everyone holds serve, it’ll be a three-way tie in the country’s toughest conference. If the Cyclones can win in Morgantown on Friday, though, Steve Prohm’s group will claim the spot outright. If West Virginia wins, the most likely scenario (assuming Baylor beats Texas) puts the Mountaineers second, Baylor third and Iowa State fourth for the tournament in Kansas City next week.