I am more than a little fascinated by this story told by Joe Jamail about Willie Nelson to Texas Monthly a little more than a year before Jamail passed away. I think about it every time Texas plays Baylor. It is fun for those of us who enjoy crass sacrilege.
“When Frank Broyles coached at Arkansas, he used to have a golf tournament each year for all the Southwest Conference coaches. Darrell asked me and Willie to go with him one time—not to play, but just to be together. Afterward, Darrell brought Willie out to pick a few songs for everybody. At some point Willie hit a wrong note or something, and he said, ‘Ah, f— it.’ The old Baylor coach Grant Teaff was there, and he stood up and said, ‘This is a Christian group here. We’ve brought our wives. And we don’t appreciate that kind of language.’ Willie didn’t miss a beat. He started another song and sang:
Jesus was a Baylor Bear
But Jesus wouldn’t cut his hair
His helmet didn’t fit
But Jesus didn’t give a shit
’Cause Jesus was a Baylor Bear
“And then we got up and got the hell out of there.”
It has been a bumpier start than usual this season for Scott Drew's team. Baylor has battled injuries in the front court, most significantly losing senior forward Terry Maston for almost the entire month of December and watching 7'0 senior Jo Lual-Acuil struggle with a foot injury at the start of conference play. But as of now, the Bears appear to be at full strength, with Lual-Acuil and Maston playing big minutes earlier this week.
Having this pair of front court players helps the Bears a lot; Maston is a bench player who plays starters minutes and is a reliable scorer inside for Drew. He kept the Bears in the game during their road game against Xavier before injuring himself in the second half; the Musketeers would eventually shoot Baylor out of the gym. Meanwhile, Lual-Acuil is a long shot blocker who has expanded his offensive game significantly this season, making himself a critical part of the Bear attack.
Maston and Lual-Acuil are just two of the many talented big men that coach Drew has at his disposal. Nuni Omot is a nine-tenths scale model of Lual-Acuil who can score from inside as well as can shoot the three. 6'9 freshman Tristan Clark has started every game for Baylor this year and gives the Bears yet another tough rebounder and shot blocker. 6'5 freshman Mark Vital is an exceptional athlete who will definitely remind you of a young Ish Wainright. It is a pretty strong group of players.
In the back court, Drew relies mostly on three guys. 5'11 senior Manu Lecomte is the quintessential small Baylor guard — a fast little guy who can shoot with high accuracy even when given only a tiny big of space. King McClure can shoot and is effective driving the basket. Jake Lindsey is bigger and more physical than his teammates, and is a strong defender and playmaker that will occasionally pick his spots to try to score.
Like most recent Baylor squads, this group shoots the ball well from the outside and attacks the offensive glass. The Bears are not quite as effective on the boards as previous editions have been, but they are still good, and limiting them to one shot will help Texas a lot.
On the other end of the floor Baylor is likely to start out the game in a zone, and find out if Texas can be lulled into passive offense. The Bears will also switch to man defense when it suits them. Ideally, Texas will not be lulled into passive offense, and will find ways to penetrate into the Baylor D.
Will it be sad songs and waltzes for the Longhorns, with Texas fans finding themselves drowning in a whiskey river, or will Shaka Smart's team win one on the road again?
The game tips in Waco at 1 p.m. CT on Saturday, and airs on ESPNU.