McDonald's Nuggets: Baylor, Clemson, Scoota Henderson
Dan McDonald is back with his weekend primer, McDonald's Nuggets. This week’s edition offers a comparison between LSU and a national championship contender in hoops, an update on a top ranked 2022 guard, the team of the week, and more gambling picks.
Freshman Tracker: Vernon Carey Jr. tops Freshman Tracker
WHAT’S ON MY MIND: Who could be this year’s basketball version Ed Orgeron/LSU?
I don’t remember any preseason college football predictions that had the LSU Tigers winning the national championship, but that’s exactly what happened, and they did so in a way leaving many asking if they are one of the best teams of all-time. I don’t see a basketball team this year capable of reaching that level, but I do see a team and a coach that could surprise a lot of basketball fans that start watching now as football ends by winning a national championship in April. That team is Baylor and that coach is Scott Drew.
For college coaches, it can be really hard to shake off a reputation placed on you early in your tenure. Go back 10 years or so and any college basketball fan you talked to probably pegged Drew as a coach that is a relentless recruiter that pushed the limits in recruiting and won because of his team’s talent. Some people probably still feel that way, and they couldn’t be more wrong.
I watched Baylor win comfortably at Kansas and have seen quite a few of their other games. There is zero doubt they are capable of winning a national championship. The best part about it? They don’t have a single five-star recruit on their roster.
So how did Baylor become one of the top teams in the country this year? I asked a few coaches in the region whose teams have played against them or they have knowledge of their program. The most common response I received was how strong they are in developing players. They redshirt as many players as high-major program in the country, a lot of times because of transfers but also kids out of high school, and they do a great job in that year. (Note: They have three more sitting out this year.) Coaches also pointed to the fact that Drew and his staff quit spending so much time recruiting five-star prospects against top schools and focused more on finding players that fit their program that they could sign. The other aspect coaches point to is how Baylor always has a strong identity defensively. For years, it was the 2-3 zone, but this year the Bears are playing almost exclusively a more aggressive man-to-man because it fits their roster better. I had coaches tell me they make it really hard on teams to do what they want to do.
Like LSU, no preseason predictions had Baylor winning a national championship. Like Ed Orgeron, Drew had his critics early in his coaching career. But this year, the stars aligned just right for LSU to win a national championship because of how Orgeron evolved as a coach from previous tenures, and don’t be surprised if Baylor and Drew cut down the nets for very similar reasons.
RECRUITING NOTE: Kentucky checking in on top 2022 guard out of Georgia
The best part about living in Atlanta as a recruiting writer is how easy it is to get out and see a highly ranked prospect on any given night. On Tuesday night, I made the trip over to watch Scoota Henderson, the No. 15 prospect in the 2022 class. The 6-foot-2 combo guard started off a little slow and his team trailed region rival Hiram going into halftime, but Henderson came out cooking in the second half and overtime. He finished with 41 points, but the best part about the performance is how well he shot the ball from three-point range. In the past, his shot has been the knock on him, but by my count he connected on five of his ten attempts from downtown on Tuesday night.
On the recruiting front, Henderson scored offers from most of the high-major programs in the southeast over the past six to eight months such as Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech and Ole Miss. Most recently, Kentucky jumped into the mix and stopped by his school recently for a visit. Look for his recruitment to continue to take off over the next 12 to 18 months as he is no doubt one of the top guards in the 2022 class.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Clemson
Clemson fans are probably still feeling a little down after the national championship loss in football, but the basketball program is certainly doing its part to build up the fan base. Brad Brownell’s team just completed a three-game winning streak over North Carolina programs, but more importantly they won at North Carolina for the first time in program history and knocked off a highly ranked Duke team. The Tigers had been limping into ACC play with losses to in-state rival South Carolina, Yale, Minnesota and Colorado, so the current winning streak is just what the doctor ordered. Let’s see if Clemson can ride this momentum out a little bit as ACC play really heats up.
We’re coming off back-to-back 2-3 weeks to put us at 6-8 for the season. Don’t worry though as we’re guaranteed to go 5-0 this week and roll into MLK Day with some extra coin in our pockets.
Let’s get started with a double-header in the Big Ten. You know what doesn’t happen two games in a row? Tom Izzo’s teams getting embarrassed. Go ahead and take Michigan State (-8) at home against Wisconsin. I also like Michigan (+4.5) to bounce back from the Minnesota loss and keep it really close at Iowa, if not win outright.
I’m fully on board the Obi Toppin bandwagon, so let’s take Dayton (-7.5) at Saint Louis. Let’s also roll with Wofford (+3) at home against Furman. There is no love lost in this rivalry and I firmly expect the Terriers to bounce back from a rough outing against Chattanooga with a huge home win over the Paladins.
Lastly, for our weekly over/under pick, take OVER 140 in the Furman/Wofford game. Wofford has scored it a pretty good rate at home and Furman scores every night. Both teams go past the 70-point mark and you make money.