Fraschilla: Previewing La Salle-Baylor

There’s nothing more exciting for me than the start of the college basketball season. It used to be, for me as a coach, the culmination of four or five weeks of practice and a bunch of off-season workouts. Now, as a college basketball analyst for ESPN, all of my offseason homework, hopefully, gets put to good use for my very first game.

I kick off my season as part of ESPN’s College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon in Waco, Texas as last year’s Elite Eight participant, Baylor University, takes on the Explorers of La Salle University at 2 PM EST.

The Bears enjoyed the finest season in its long basketball history a year ago, finishing with a 28-8 record before losing a excruciatingly close game to the eventual National Champions, Duke University in Houston. In fact, Baylor had won only twelve post-season games in 101 seasons before winning ten under Scott Drew in the last two seasons.

Drew’s team should continue its resurgence this season despite losing three valuable starters in Josh Lomers, Tweety Carter and NBA lottery selection Ekpe Udoh. LaceDarius Dunn returns as the school’s fourth all-time scorer, although he will miss the La Salle game as part of a five-game suspension for a violation of team rules.

6-foot-7 junior Quincy Acy, who has a career field goal percentage of 68, steps into the starting lineup. The high-energy forward had ten dunks in a game against Texas last season. The Bears also welcome its highest-rated recruit ever in 6-foot-11 Duncanville, Texas native Perry Jones. The multi-skilled forward can play inside and out and will have the ball in his hands a lot in transition this season.

La Salle, who finished 12-18 last season, was one of the most snake-bitten teams in college basketball as it lost one senior starter for the season and two other senior starters for most of the season. The silver lining was the development of some quality young players, including 6-foot-10 sophomore Aaric Murray, a legitimate NBA prospect who averaged 12.2 points and 6.6 rebounds.

Fifth-year senior Ruben Guillandeaux returned from his red-shirt year on Friday night by dropping 29 on Columbia in the Explorers 82-71 win.