Unbeaten Baylor prohibitive favorite vs. Jackson State (Dec 17, 2016)
WACO, Texas -- It's difficult to imagine that there are two teams more diametrically opposed in their performance through the first month of this season than Baylor and Jackson State.
Fourth-ranked Baylor has ripped through an ambitious schedule, posting wins over then-No. 24 Michigan State and a trio of top-10 victories over Oregon, Louisville and Xavier.
When the Bears (9-0) weren't playing Top 25 opponents, they have demolished all comers. Baylor has won its games against non-ranked foes, including Florida Gulf Coast, Virginia Commonwealth and Sam Houston State, by an average of 19.2 points per game.
Baylor has been able to blend its newcomers -- point guard Manu Lecomte, forward Jo Lual-Acuil and, most recently, forward Nuni Omot, who became eligible this week -- with an able cast of veterans.
The Bears used nine players for 10 minutes or more in their win over Southern on Wednesday.
"With more players and more different weapons or players you can put in to give the team a spark, the better options for the team," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "The only way that becomes a hindrance is if people start worrying about themselves more than the team. But we've been blessed with good kids, great leadership and believing that the team comes first."
On the other end of the spectrum, Jackson State (3-7) had only two bench players play significant minutes and got no bench points in a loss to NAIA Blue Mountain College on Thursday.
Jackson State had won two straight before its Thursday loss. Still, the noteworthy mark of the Tigers' season so far has been a six-game losing streak in November.
Coach Wayne Brent is trying to get his charges to power through a difficult part of the season.
"You want to sub, but you don't have a sub," Brent said. "You want guys to play a little harder, but they're playing as hard as they can play. They're just mentally drained. We've got to get through it because we've got to get on the bus and go to Baylor."
With a quick turnaround from a home game in Jackson, Miss., to Saturday's game at Fort Hood, Texas, the Tigers won't be able to practice much, but have to prepare themselves in other ways.
"The road doesn't get any easier," Brent said. "We'll try to mentally get some guys ready. It's a long season and anything can happen, you've just got to get guys ready to play."
Although it doesn't promise to be a compelling contest on the court, with the Bears entering as an overwhelming favorite, there's at least the uplifting prospect of entertaining soldiers at Fort Hood.
This is the second straight season in which Baylor has played a home game at Fort Hood, located about 60 miles from Baylor's campus.
"I know a lot of times, soldiers come up and families will come up to some games here (in Waco)," Drew said. "But us having a chance to play down there, I think that's something our players really appreciate that opportunity to say thank you."