No. 16 Baylor embraces test against Washington

No. 16 Baylor and reigning Pac-12 Conference champion Washington meet in an early-season test on Friday at the Armed Forces Classic in Anchorage, Alaska.

Led by junior forward and preseason All-Big 12 Conference honoree Tristan Clark, Baylor (1-0) ushers in its new season with lofty expectations. The Bears were picked to finish second in the Big 12 preseason poll, one spot ahead of 2019 national runner-up Texas Tech.

"You'd always rather be picked higher than lower because it means people think you have some talent, some things to work with," Baylor coach Scott Drew said at Big 12 media day in October.

Clark is the biggest piece the Bears have back, although Friday marks just his second appearance since a season-ending knee injury sustained in January.

Drew tempered initial expectations for the post presence, who averaged 14.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game at the time of his injury last season.

"He's not a 20-10 guy right now. Hopefully he gets to that. It's going to take him a while still to recover, get used to playing," Drew said.

And, indeed, Clark finished with just three points and four rebounds in Baylor's 105-61, season-opening rout of Central Arkansas on Tuesday.

Jared Butler picked up the scoring slack in that one, knocking down eight of 12 3-pointers en route to 30 points in just 28 minutes of play.

"It just so happened that I got the lucky bounce," Butler said in his postgame press conference. "Next night it might be MaCio (Teague). Next night it might be Davion (Mitchell). Next night it might be (Devonte) Bandoo."

Baylor's team 3-point shooting will be put to the test Friday against Washington's zone defense, a signature of coach Mike Hopkins. The longtime Syracuse assistant brought his scheme to Washington in 2017-18, and last year, it made the Huskies No. 18 in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency per advanced metrics.

The 2018-19 Pac-12 regular-season champions will try to replicate that success this season, without lock-down defender Matisse Thybulle. Thybulle left Washington the Pac-12's all-time leader in career steals.

"When you had David (Crisp) and Matisse, you knew what you were going to get," Hopkins said at Pac-12 media day in October. "We're estimating there will be bumps in the road, but guys are getting better and we believe in them."

Reinforcements arrived this offseason and make their collegiate debuts on Friday, with the five-star recruit duo of forwards Jaden McDaniels and Isaiah Stewart.

The blue-chip prospects join a mostly new-look roster. Junior wing Nahziah Carter is the top returning Husky, having appeared in all 36 games last season. Carter averaged 55.4 percent shooting from the floor.

Washington's revamped lineup faces a difficult schedule early. The Pac-12 -- much maligned the past two seasons for its poor play out-of-conference -- went undefeated through the first two days of the 2019-20 campaign, albeit mostly against mid-major conference competition.

Hopkins believes the Huskies' initial gauntlet, which includes a game next week against 2019 Sweet 16 team Tennessee in Toronto, will prime them for March.

"We believe last year the strength of our schedule is what helped us not only do well in the Pac-12, but get to the tournament and do well in the tournament," he said.

--Field Level Media