For the next month or so, our friends at The Mag are previewing one high-profile school per day for their Summer Buzz series. For the sake of all that is synergistic, yours truly will be attempting the same, complementing each comprehensive Insider preview with some adjusted efficiency fun. Today's subject: Baylor . Up next? Michigan State.
The Baylor Bears were not a great defensive team in 2009-10. This was less obvious than it sounds.
When you watched the Bears play, it seemed like they were everywhere. Ekpe Udoh and Quincy Acy prowled the paint, Tweety Carter and LaceDarius Dunn roamed the perimeter, and the net effect was a team fast and athletic enough to give anyone fits.
A closer look at Baylor's efficiency numbers, though, reveals a team that was far more adept at scoring than stopping. The Bears were, in fact, a team with a potent offense and a merely OK defense. Baylor ranked No. 3 in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency and No. 34 in adjusted defensive efficiency. Baylor was good at preventing good looks -- they were ranked No. 20 in the country in opponents' effective field goal percentage -- but failed to keep opponents off the glass and didn't force nearly as many turnovers as you'd expect.
Entering the NCAA tournament, I sheepishly predicted that if Baylor met Duke in the Elite Eight, the Bears' interior athleticism would be too much for the more ground-bound Dukies. Naturally, I was wrong. Baylor ended up being just as soft on the defensive end as their numbers suggested. The lesson, as always: Never doubt the numbers. The numbers do not like to be doubted.
What does this mean for the 2010-11 Bears? It means Perry Jones has to be as good as advertised, and maybe better.
Replacing the talented Udoh after his No. 6 overall selection in the 2010 NBA draft won't be easy. That task will fall on Jones, the No. 3 overall power forward in the class of 2010. Jones is an athletic and versatile 6-foot-11 forward who, according to our ESPNU recruiting service, "has off the charts talent and skill." Sounds great, right? The only problem: Jones' "production is no where close to what it should be." Gulp.
The rest of Baylor's stars are easier to read: Dunn will still be a ruthlessly effective shooting guard, Acy will still be a skilled scorer with an elite offensive rating (the best in the Big 12 at 125.0) and should see even more of the ball with Udoh and center Josh Lomers out of the picture. Baylor will still score in bunches. That much is clear.
What's missing here is what was missing from Baylor's 2009 team: defense. The key, then, is Jones. If the first-year player is good enough to affect the defensive interior -- to at least marginally shore up his team's own glass, and to prevent good looks in the post -- Baylor could be even more dangerous in 2010. At this point, given what we know about Jones' skills, that's a possibility.
But it's far from a certainty. Which means the 2010-11 Baylor Bears could be very similar to the 2009-10 version. Considering where Baylor was at the start of the decade, that's still awfully impressive.