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04/09/2013

Baylor is Texas' best chance in '13-'14

460xThe college basketball season is over, and now the eyes of the great state a Texas can focus on what it really cares about - football practice. Or 7 on 7. Or football speculation. How are there not any football coaches fired yet?

This college basketball season in Texas will be marked by the giant flop by every team in this state for failing to qualify for the NCAA tournament. Because 21 Division I teams just isn't enough.

This state, however, did win the National Intramural Tournament - Baylor was the 69th best team in the nation. Kidding. Baylor's talent said it should have been in the NCAA but the results said otherwise.

Stephen F. Austin should have reached the NCAA tournament but lost in the Southland Conference tourney finals, and Baylor gagged away too many close games to make it.

Heading into this offseason, however, Baylor should be the best team in this great state when next season begins.

This team, however, figures to lose much: Point guard Pierre Jackson is gone, and it would be a real shock if 7-foot-1 freshman center Isaiah Austin returns.

The swing guy is Cory Jefferson. He is a 6-foot-9 junior who averaged 13.3 points and 8 rebounds. If he remains in Waco, happy times for coach Scott Drew. Forward Rico Gathers should be better, and contribute more with more touches. Along with incoming recruit Ishmail Wainwright, Baylor should have the necessary toys to win 20 games next season and much more.

Kansas should lose all five starters from a Sweet 16 team; Texas' leading scorer is transferring, and the Horns are likely going to lose point guard Myck Kabongo to the draft; Oklahoma State can't expect Marcus Smart to return. Iowa State and Kansas State should be tough outs but Baylor has the pieces to not only return to the NCAA tournament but win this conference.

The other teams to watch out for: UTEP, because Tim Floyd knows what he is doing, and SMU. Head coach Larry Brown already had a solid recruiting class, but he landed the best recruit in the history of the program when he recently added McDonald's All-American Keith Frazier, who chose SMU over Texas Tech.

Twitter @MacEngelProf

tengel@star-telegram.com

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