Bohls: Baylor reveals disparity between it and Texas ... and everyone
- Texas was woeful at the free throw line and in turnovers but it might not have made a difference.
- Scott Drew's Baylor Bears are at another-level good.
- "Baylor's ahead of us," Shaka Smart said. "That's a fact."
The glass two-thirds-full optimist will size up second-ranked Baylor’s impressive 83-69 win over No. 6 Texas and wonder how Tuesday night’s showdown between the Big 12’s top two teams might have turned out differently.
Like if the Longhorns hadn’t treated the basketball like a live hand grenade and turned it over 17 debilitating times.
Or if Texas hadn’t gone to the free throw line blindfolded and missed 11 of 14 attempts. Tell me again how they actually sank three.
Or even if the home team hadn’t gone 19 days of practice without a complete roster. That could have helped Texas, too.
Maybe it’d all been different than the 14-point shellacking the No. 2 Bears put on the Longhorns at the Erwin Center. Nah, probably not.
Maybe that’s just totally delusional.
After all, Baylor’s just that good.
Scott Drew’s unbeaten Bears (17-0) are another-level good. Shaka Smart knows it. The 2,532 fans at the Drum knew it. The whole country knows it.
“Baylor’s ahead of us,” said Smart, whose personal scorecard against Drew is an unsightly 2-10. “That’s a fact. But they’re ahead of a lot of people.”
To his credit, Smart didn't sugarcoat it, saying his team's defense was "not even close" to the level it needed to be and that his team wasn't tough enough.
You can pick Gonzaga over Baylor on a neutral court if you wish, but you’ll be hard-pressed to suggest the visitors from Waco aren’t every bit the equal of the Zags because both teams are blowing everybody out. And college basketball was cheated of the answer to the question of who’s better since their nonconference meeting was scuttled just as the Texas-Baylor game was on Dec. 13. We'll probably have to wait until the Final Four for that resolution.
Not that Texas or anyone should want to play these Bears again. I wouldn’t. Who needs that humiliation. Baylor’s elite at both ends of the floor and on the sidelines.
Before we go further, know this: Texas (11-4) is a very, very good team capable of going deep into the NCAA Tournament. Great chemistry. Veteran guards who can get to the basket and are dangerous, if inconsistent, from the perimeter. Promising, athletic big men. Stability in the coaching staff.
The Horns just aren't Baylor-good. Few teams are.
Baylor’s a 40-minute champion. Texas is a 30-minute contender hoping a great team like Baylor might do something stupid like lose its poise or forget that six players shoot an ungodly 43% or better from behind the arc.
I’m starting to think Drew’s got so many weapons, his team may be the Kansas City Chiefs of college basketball. How else does one explain a talented Longhorns team hitting 10 treys, shooting 55% from the field, getting 25 out of its best player and still losing by 14?
Put these two teams on the court together 10 times, and does any impartial observer really think the Longhorns could win two? Or maybe three? One?
That’s possible because Smart didn’t have a single player bring his A game. Andrew Jones may have with his 25 points and court leadership, but his coach didn’t like his on-ball defense at times, and even AJ was guilty of a silly turnover on a behind-the-back pass.
“You know, we're not far off,” Jones said of the disparity between the two clubs. “It just was a really good team (that) executed well down the stretch. They took care of the ball, and our defense just wasn't at their level today as it’s supposed to be.”
Jones didn’t have nearly enough help. Matt Coleman III (two assists, five turnovers) and Courtney Ramey shrank in the moment against superior guards. Jericho Sims had his moments with nine rebounds and some gritty defense, but neither he nor Kai Jones nor Greg Brown ever asserted themselves as they needed to.
Baylor plays with mature, big guards who can shoot lights out every night and then bring a stud like Matthew Mayer off the bench to inflict more pain on an opponent. Baylor plays under control at all times. It’s called poise. I can’t tell if Davion Mitchell should be Big 12 player of the year or Jared Butler. They combined for 48. Yawn.
You for sure didn’t catch Drew’s team getting a shake-your-head whistle and a momentum-altering technical as Brown, Texas’ precocious but gifted freshman, did after a violent dunk. He clearly stared down Baylor’s Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and was whistled for taunting and given a really untimely tech.
The kind of mistake the Bears don’t make. Texas never got close again.
Maybe Baylor is the new Kansas. Somebody’s got to be after the Jayhawks dropped three in a row and are facing NCAA jail.
Why not Baylor, who gets great coaching, finds transfers out of Auburn (Mitchell) and UNC-Asheville (MaCio Teague) and basketball hotbed Presbyterian (Adam Flagler) and molds them into a cohesive, hungry bunch. Is not Drew the most underrated coach in America?
And for all the Bears’ strengths, Texas isn’t half bad. The Longhorns are a very good team, a team that beat Kansas in Phog Allen, that won the Maui Invitational by beating Indiana and North Carolina, that scared Villanova, that probably would have held off Oklahoma but for three top players missing.
Sure, Texas has a long ways to go if it hopes to catch up to Baylor this season and might not. Smart sees the gap between the two teams, the same one that separates the Bears from most teams.
Was Texas intimidated?
Smart doesn’t think so, but said, “We just didn't have enough toughness, to be honest, in a lot of ways to withstand that. To beat a team like this you just flat out have to be poised and tough and gritty and have some things go your way over the course of 40 minutes.”
Not 20. Not 30. But 40.
And even that might not be enough. But you have to bring it for 40 to even have a fighting chance. What works against Kansas State won’t stand a prayer against Baylor.
Oh, the Bears aren't perfect. They’re a little lax on the defensive boards. They don’t have that go-to big guy down low that can get 20 every night. They play such good help defense, it’s like they have seven on the court, not eight. I think I spotted a couple of them with their jerseys untucked.
Yes, and who knows if the Bears have the grit to win a close game. None of us do because they never play one. They’ve beaten 16 of 17 teams by double-digits and Texas Tech by 8.
But otherwise, they’re a pretty salty bunch. A winning bunch. And possibly even a championship bunch.
Texas, in turn, got its own measuring stick on Tuesday night. And didn’t measure up.
Not many do against Baylor.