Name: Baylor University
Location: Waco, Texas
Texas is big, help me out here: You could probably qualify Waco as in Central Texas, although it’s definitely in the eastern half of the state. It’s about halfway between Dallas and Austin, although I-35 tilts in a southwesterly direction as you make that drive.
Founded: 1845 is the official year of founding, although the planning for the school dates back as far as 1841. Texas President — yes, President, this was while Texas was an independent republic — Anson Jones signed the legislation required to allow the Union Baptist Association to create the university, but much like how Wong’s bestie Madisynn spells her name, Baylor wasn’t located where you think it is.
What? See, as Sorcerer Supreme, Wong was called upon to resc—
NO, NOT THE MARVEL STUFF, THE BAYLOR STUFF. Oh, right. But seriously, go watch She-Hulk.
Independence: Baylor was originally located in Independence, Texas, which is now a town approximately 112 miles southwest of Waco. Classes officially started in May of 1846, as apparently Baylor was not super big on what we think of as the traditional school year now.
When do we get to Waco? Not until 1885, when they merged with Waco University, a school that was being presided over by the guy who used to be Baylor’s president. The reason for the move is largely because the people of Independence refused to allow construction of a railroad line which caused the town to dwindle in importance and then in population. Moving to the banks of the Brazos River just made sense at that point.
Marquette is a French Jesuit explorer. What’s a Baylor? R.E.B. Baylor was an prominent Baptist minister and judge in Texas at the time, and was one of the guys who made the push within the Union Baptist Association to create the school. Is it possible that the school might not be named Baylor for much longer given Mr. Baylor’s history of owning slaves and supporting the Confederacy to the point of allowing the school grounds in Independence to be used as a Confederate Army camp? Hey, maybe, I’m not in charge here.
Enrollment: 20,709 students in total, with 15,213 as undergraduates in the fall of 2022.
Why “Bears”? You’ll never believe it: A vote of the students. The contest was held in 1914, and Bears beat out other options like Buffaloes, Antelopes, Frogs, and Ferrets.
So, live mascot? Not regularly until the 1920s. World War 1 troops stationed at Camp McArthur in Waco made a bear available to the school, and Ted made his first appearance at the 1917 Baylor/Texas A&M football game. When the troops left, Ted got left behind with the school. In 1974, there was another student vote to declare that all bear mascots should be named Judge with a surname in honor of the judicial career of R.E.B. Baylor. Judge Sue Sloan, known simply as “Lady,” is Baylor’s only live bear mascot at the moment, following the passing of Judge Joy Reynolds in July.
We like to highlight campus traditions around here: Baylor has made that very easy, giving us a 2015 blog post titled “7 Traditions All Baylor Freshmen Should Know About.” This includes Baylor Line, where all the freshmen welcome the football team onto the field for every home game, and Dr. Pepper Hour, noting the availability of Dr. Pepper Floats at Barfield Drawing Room every Tuesday. In case you were wondering: Yes, there is a Dr. Pepper Hour VIP Club.
Notable Alumni: WILLIE FREAKING NELSON. That’s it, that’s the list.
There has to be more. Okay, FINE. Actress Crystal Bernard, best known for her role on Wings; author Robert Fulghum; College Football Hall of Fame coach Hayden Fry; Joe Allbritton, founder of the parent company of Politico; ventriloquist Jeff Dunham; Brittney Griner, WNBA first round draft pick and current Russian prisoner; Bill Townsend, founder of Lycos; Chip & Joanna Gaines, unofficial king and queen of Waco and stars of the TV series Fixer Upper; record setting sprinter Michael Johnson; actress Allison Tolman, best known for her role on the TV series Fargo; author Thomas Harris, best known for his Hannibal Lecter series of books; actress Angela Kinsey, best known for her role on The Office; Drayton McLane, former owner of the Houston Astros; ESPN talking head Trey Wingo; Louie Gohmert, noted House of Representatives weirdo; Bob Simpson, founder of XTO Energy and current co-owner of the Texas Rangers; Ann Richards, the most recent Democrat to serve as Governor of the state of Texas; and of course, shouts to Terry Teagle.
Last Season: 27-7 with a 14-4 mark in the Big 12, which tied with Kansas for the league championship. They got bounced from the conference tournament by Oklahoma in their first contest and then, as a #1 seed, lost to eventual national runner-up North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA tournament
Final KenPom.com Ranking: #4
Final T-Rank Ranking: #5
This Year So Far: 5-1 with only a neutral site 7 point loss to Virginia marring their record.
Current KenPom Ranking & Projection: #8 and projected to go 22-9 with a 12-6 record in the Big 12. That would be one game behind Big 12 champion Texas.
Current T-Rank Ranking & Projection: #7 and projected to go 22-9 with an 11-7 record in the Big 12. That would be one game behind Big 12 champion Texas.
Returning Stats Leaders
Points: Adam Flagler, 13.8 ppg
Rebounds: Flo Thamba, 5.6 rpg
Assists: Adam Flagler, 3.0 apg
A slight note: Officially, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua is Baylor’s leading returning rebounder at 6.8 per game. However, he has not played this season after suffering a season ending knee injury on February 12th last season.
Actual Stats Leaders
Points: LJ Cryer, 17.7 ppg
Rebounds: Flo Thamba, 5.2 rpg
Assists: Adam Flagler, 7.2 apg
Shooters? Adam Flagler shot 38% from long range as a freshman at Presbyterian in 2018-19. In fact, he went 4-for-7 and led the team in scoring during that very famous Marquette/Presbyterian game in November 2018. He transferred to Baylor, sat out the next season, and then shot 43% and 39% the last two seasons. That would be enough to justify talking about him here. With that in mind, I tell you that he is hitting nearly 54% of his threes this season through six games.
He’s third on the team in attempts, though. Both LJ Cryer and Keyonte George have gotten 48 triples into the air this season, and for good reason. Cryer is hitting 38%, while George is connecting at a perfectly acceptable for a freshman 33% clip. George is struggling a little bit lately, going 4-for-17 in Baylor’s last two games.
Those three are the only truly notable shooters for Baylor, but those are three pretty notable shooters to have to keep track of all game long.
Bigs? Zach Loveday is the only listed 7-footer on the Bears roster, but he’s only tallied up 27 total minutes in five appearances this year. Josh Ojianwuna is listed at 6’10” and 230 pounds, and he’s averaged 14 minutes per game this season. He’s pretty productive in limited minutes, chipping in 5.8 points and 4.0 rebounds. Flo Thamba (6’10”, 250 pounds) is their starting center, and he averages 4.8 points and 5.2 rebounds a game along with a steal and a block. At 235 pounds and standing 6’8” tall, Caleb Lohner probably qualifies for the heading. He’s playing just under 18 minutes a game and getting the Bears 7.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game.
Head Coach: Scott Drew, in his 20th season at Baylor and 21st season as a Division 1 head coach. He went 20-11 at Valparaiso in 2002-03 before taking the Baylor job the next season. He has a record of 404-223 with the Bears and 424-234 overall.
All-Time Series: The two teams are even at one win each. Both meetings came by way of a home-and-home series in 1998 and 1999, with each side winning in their own arena.
What To Watch For: We mentioned him briefly in the shooters section, but I did want to highlight Keyonte George briefly. Barring what would probably have to be a deep-ish NCAA tournament run, George will be the best freshman that Marquette sees this season. He came into the season ranked #8 in the country by the 247 Sports Composite, and is averaging 14.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 1.2 steals in 26.5 minutes a game while starting all six contests for Scott Drew. So, yeah, he’s really good even if he’s not leading the Bears in any particular category at the moment. George is Baylor’s highest usage player to this point of the season, using 29.9% of their possessions and taking 30.8% of their shots while he’s on the floor. It should be interesting to see how Marquette elects to defend him. I suspect that Stevie Mitchell will get the primary assignment, even though he’s giving up a couple of inches to George, as Olivier-Maxence Prosper’s size may be better spent defending Jalen Bridges and/or Flo Thamba.
This game will be an interesting test of Marquette’s defense, and not just because Baylor comes in as KenPom.com’s #2 offense in the country. My curiosity in the matter comes more from the fact that these two coaches are incredibly familiar with each other for a non-conference contest. While Shaka Smart was the head coach at Texas, he squared off against Scott Drew and the Bears 12 times, with Baylor picking up the win 10 times. Both of Texas’ victories in the series came in Austin, giving Smart a 2-4 margin in those contests. Four of the 10 losses for Smart were by single digits, including a pair of overtime losses by just one point.
In other words: Shaka Smart knows that he’s had trouble getting wins against Drew’s Bears, but even when the wins haven’t shown up, his teams have been able to give Baylor fits. What about the shift to Milwaukee has allowed Smart to re-tool his approach, and how much of those changes are going to pay dividends against Baylor this time around?
On the other side of the ball, Baylor is still very good, but their defense has some flaws. They’re reasonably decent at driving you off the three-point line, and that’s good. However, teams are making a ton of threes against them: 37.6%, sitting at #300 in the country right now. A big reason for that? Teams are getting good looks at the bucket when they do get threes off because Baylor is the ninth worst team in the country at stopping you from getting an assisted basket. If you have, say, the #2 assist man in the country on your team, that might not go well for Baylor’s defense.
If Baylor is going to try and chase MU’s shooters off the line, they have to take advantage of the Bears’ other major flaw. Baylor is one of the 40 worst teams in the country at letting their foes get to the free throw line. If Baylor’s backup bigs — Zach Loveday and Josh Ojianwuna — get into the game, MU has to go right at them because they’re incredibly foul prone. Same for Caleb Lohner, who is sitting on 7.2 fouls per 40 minutes at this point of the year. Jalen Bridges is the starter most at risk of fouling, so if Marquette can exploit that and put him off the floor with fouls and start a parade to the free throw line.... well, that can’t be a bad thing, right?