Matthew Mayer, Illinois, Baylor

Baylor basketball looking to become the first team since Florida in 2007-08 to repeat as National Champions.

As the clock expired in Indianapolis, Jim Nantz made the statement, “Coach Drew and Baylor complete college basketball’s greatest rebound and rebuild with a championship”. Coach Drew’s quest at Baylor Basketball and more championships, however, isn’t complete.

After the Bears won the national championship, Baylor was aware that the program was going to look different once November rolled around. Within the week, Davion Mitchell announced his intentions for the NBA Draft and was selected ninth overall to the Sacramento Kings.

Jared Butler heard his name called later than many expected, going 40th to the Utah Jazz. MaCio Teague also ended up with the Jazz, rounding out the duo, alongside NBA veteran and fellow Baylor basketball alumni, Royce O’Neale.

Although the formula for success won’t be the same in 2021-22, the way Baylor can win is simple: athleticism and above-average shooting. Although Baylor was the best three-point shooting team last season, that team didn’t have the athleticism that this season’s team does.

Projected Rotation

PG: James Akinjo (6-1, 190, Sr.)

2021 stats: 15.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists (Arizona)

Projected stats: 13.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists

SG: Adam Flagler (6’3, 180, Jr.)

2021 stats: 9.1 points,,2.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists.

Projected stats: 10.9 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists

SF: Matthew Mayer (6-9, 225, Sr.)

2021 stats: 8.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, one assists

Projected stats: 12.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists

PF: Kendall Brown (6-8, 205, Fr.)

247Sports 5-star rated recruit

Projected stats: 11.9 points 6.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists

C: Johnathon Tchamwa-Tchatchoua (6-8, 245, Jr.)

Projected stats: 6.4 points, five rebounds, 0.7 blocks

2021 stats: 6.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists

6: LJ Cryer (6-1, 185, So.)

2021 stats: 3.4 points, 0.6 rebounds, 0.8 assists

Projected stats: 9.6 points, 2.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists

7: Flo Thamba (6-10, 245, Sr.)

2021 stats: 3.6 points, four rebounds, 0.7 blocks

Projected stats: 5.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 0.9 blocks

8: Dale Bonner (6-2, 170, Jr.)

2021 stats: Unsure, due to waiver rules. If he is eligible this year, 9.2 points, 1.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists.

Projected stats:

9: Dain Dainja (6-9, 270, R-Fr.)

2021 stats: Redshirted

Projected stats: 4.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 0.5 blocks

10: Jeremy Sochan (6-9, 230, Fr.)

247 4-star rated recruit

Projected stats: 3.9 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.0 blocks

Team MVP: Matthew Mayer

Evan Miya has Mayer as among the top 10 players returning nationally, and for good reason. The 6-foot-9 sharpshooter from Austin Westlake High School in Texas is a unicorn type player, with extreme athleticism, good touch near the rim and a knack for hitting three-pointers.

Mayer has improved every year at Baylor. From hitting 30% of his three-pointers and 4.6 points per game as a freshman to nailing almost 49% of his shots last year and 39.5% from beyond the arc. What Mayer has not done yet, is get the opportunity to begin in the starting five. In his 93 games at Baylor, Mayer has yet to make a start and will be featured with the ball in his hands more.

The question for Mayer is will he able to play consistently getting 10-12 shots per game, compared to his 6.3 per game last year. If he can keep the rate he was at last year into this year, expect Mayer to be an All-Big 12 player by the end of the season.

Make or Break Player: Johnathon Tchamwa-Tchatchoua

The transfer from UNLV redshirted during the 2019-20 season. A season where the Bears sat at the top of the polls for five weeks and won a school and Big 12-record, 24 straight games.

While Tchamwa-Tchatchoua was sitting, he got to practice and observe former All-Big 12 forward Tristan Clark and forward Freddie Gillespie, who spent some time with the Toronto Raptors last year.

Tchamwa-Tchatchoua brings an excellent pick-and-roll option and a defensive and rim protector presence. Although Mitchell or Butler won’t be throwing the lobs to him, Flagler is experienced and should be handling the duty of feeding the big man off of screens or set plays.

I’m intrigued to see what other skill he develops during the off-season and if a shot from 10-15 feet out is established. The athleticism and motor are already there for Tchamwa-Tchatchoua, but an offensive game outside of near the rim can make him more dangerous.

Bench Rating: 7/10

Baylor basketball would’ve had an eight rating, but suffered a tough loss, with freshman guard Langston Love’s season coming to an end. Love tore his ACL in a scrimmage against Texas A&M and was playing well leading up to that point.

Flo Thamba brings a ton of experience and if he losses the center position in the starting lineup should bring solid defense. LJ Cryer scored 3,000 points in his high school career and showed skills with his 17 point performance against Louisiana and 15 against Arkansas Pine-Bluff.

The experience from that point takes a nosedive, with the uncertainty of Bonner’s eligibility and two freshmen that will be getting solid minutes in Sochan and Dainja.

The unit is capable of being solid, not near as talented as last year’s bench, but can help the Bears more than hamper.

Analytic to Know: Offensive Rebounding

Scott Drew-led teams are consistently among the best offensive rebounding team in the country. Baylor basketball continued the trend last year, with 12.5 offensive rebounds per game, good for 27th in the country.

It’s a Scott Drew staple to grab rebounds and continuing that tradition this year is the plan. Tchamwa-Tchatchoua and Thamba, alongside Brown and Dainja should help the Bears continue the tradition.

Team Outlook

Another year of development for players and adding an athletic five-star unicorn helps the cause for coach Drew’s team in Waco.

Baylor should be tested during the non-conference slate, with the normal Big 12-SEC Challenge, a neutral court matchup with Gonzaga, and participating in the Battle 4 Atlantis. That early-season tournament includes the likes of Michigan State, Syracuse, Auburn, UConn, and Loyola Chicago.

The cohesiveness of Baylor basketball will not be as good as last year’s. However, the talent is certainly still there and there should be high expectations for these Bears.

Repeating as Big 12 Champions is not out of the question. If the Bears’ chemistry becomes an issue, it can falter and Baylor becomes a 5-6 seed heading into the NCAA Tournament with a tougher road ahead.

Projected Conference Finish: 3rd in Big 12

Projected Postseason Finish: NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Exit

Ceiling: NCAA Tournament Elite Eight Exit


Feaured image from Busting Brackets