No. 2 Baylor ready for unexpected matchup with Nicholls State

NCAA Basketball

In hindsight, Baylor sophomore forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua offered a statement that was equally foreboding and predictive in advance of the Bears’ anticipated tilt against Gonzaga.

The second-ranked Bears were fresh off an impressive victory over No. 5 Illinois in Indianapolis and were scheduled to meet No. 1 Gonzaga at the same locale on Saturday but COVID-19 protocols led to the postponement of the affair. Prior to the game being tentatively rescheduled, the chatter focused squarely on the top two teams in the nation meeting so early in the season.

“I’m really not thinking that much about a ranking,” Tchamwa Tchatchoua said. “I’m just really excited every single game because we’re right now playing during uncertain times. So, every game is a blessing.”

That uncertainty came to fruition for the Bears (3-0), who will host Nicholls State (2-3) on Tuesday at the Ferrell Center in what now will be their fourth game this season. Two members of Gonzaga’s traveling party produced positive test results, and an abundance of caution led the two programs to postpone the game and attempt to reschedule at a date later this season.

“We’re disappointed to not be able to play one of the most anticipated games of the season, but we are following the advice of public health officials,” Baylor coach Scott Drew and Gonzaga coach Mark Few said through a joint statement. “When we decided to play during a pandemic, our priorities were protecting the health and safety of student-athletes and following public health guidelines, and we’re proud of how both programs have held true to those promises.”

With their aborted showdown against Gonzaga tabled, the Bears can turn their attention to the Colonels. Part of what makes Baylor formidable is its depth of talent, with four players averaging double figures in scoring: junior guard Jared Butler (16.3 points per game), senior guard MaCio Teague (15.7), sophomore guard Adam Flagler (15.7) and junior guard Davion Mitchell (13).

Flagler and Tchamwa Tchatchoua, who averages nine points and a team-leading 8.3 rebounds, come off the bench for the Bears while fifth-year senior swingman Mark Vital, previously a program linchpin, is eighth in scoring (6.3) while still a member of the starting lineup.

“That’s one blessing we have is depth,” Drew said. “When you have depth, that means you have multiple guys that can step up. That’s when you know you have a good team.

“Not everyone is always going to have their ‘A’ game. Some nights, you’re just going to be off … or maybe you’re a step slower. That’s the great thing about having depth is you have different people that can step up at different times.”

Nicholls State has dropped three consecutive games and capped its seven-day, five-game swing through the Bay Area with a 73-50 loss to Saint Mary’s last Wednesday in Morgana, Calif. After opening the season with wins over UC Davis and Idaho State, the Colonels have shot just 32.3 percent in losing to Santa Clara, California and the Gaels by an average margin of 16.7 points.

–Field Level Media

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