San Diego St.-Baylor Preview
The emergence of freshman Quincy Miller has helped No. 11 Baylor get off to a solid start despite the suspension of Perry Jones III.
Miller and the Bears look to keep rolling Tuesday when they host San Diego State, which faces its first true test after losing multiple key players from last season's record-setting squad.
Jones is halfway through a six-game NCAA suspension - the first of which was served last spring - for receiving improper benefits before arriving at Baylor, and the preseason Big 12 player of the year won't be eligible to return until Nov. 29 against Prairie View A&M.
The Bears (2-0) haven't yet missed Jones, as Miller has scored 17 points in each of their victories, including Sunday's 92-59 win over Jackson State. The 6-foot-9 forward has connected on five of his seven 3-point attempts while shooting 47.8 percent from the field.
"My coaches told me to be confident from the start and shoot the ball, and that's what I did,'' Miller said. "In the first half, it wasn't falling as much, but in the second half it did.''
The Bears have won 21 straight home games against non-conference opponents, a streak they'll look to extend against a San Diego State team far different than the one that won a school-record 34 games last season.
The Aztecs (3-0) made their first-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament's round of 16 before falling to eventual national champion Connecticut. They reached as high as No. 4 in the AP Poll after winning their first 20 games, though they began this season unranked after losing starters D.J. Gay, Billy White, Malcolm Thomas and Kawhi Leonard, who left for the NBA after his sophomore season.
Coach Steve Fisher says - while unfair - his new-look squad will continuously be compared to last season's team, but he contends SDSU will do all it can to replicate that success.
With only nine scholarship players, the Aztecs have been impressive at times in getting off to an undefeated start. Sophomore Jamaal Franklin scored a career-high 31 points in Sunday's 89-74 win over UC Davis, helping the SDSU bench outscore the starters 49-40.
Junior Chase Tapley, who averaged 8.6 points last season and is San Diego State's leading returning scorer, added 23 points and has averaged 19.7 while shooting 54.3 percent from the field.
"We're going to play hard with each and every position," Tapley said. "The team has a lot of fight in it, and a lot of grit. Hopefully we'll get comfortable on this trip to Waco."
No matter the solid start, Fisher knows his team is in for a challenge Tuesday.
"This is just what we could have hoped to have and still win three games," he said. "We'll find out against a team (Baylor) that's big, strong, athletic and good on Tuesday, whether we can play at that level with what we've got right now."
Baylor won the most recent meeting 76-62 on March 31, 2009, in an NIT semifinal at Madison Square Garden.