Baylor will probably be the only Division I basketball team this year to trail before its season even started.
Minutes before the No. 19 Bears' season opener against Lehigh on Friday afternoon, referees assessed Baylor a team technical foul when they caught a player dunking during a portion of warmups when NCAA rules prohibit it. As a result, the Lehigh star C.J. McCollum went to the foul line and sank two free throws without a second even elapsing off the clock, giving the Mountain Hawks a 2-0 lead before tipoff.
Most referees will look the other way when players dunk during warmups rather than assess a pregame technical, but this is certainly not the first instance of it being called.
In the 2009 WCC tournament title game, Saint Mary's trailed Gonzaga 1-0 before tipoff because one of the Gaels dunked during warmups. Referees assessed a similar technical on Kent State freshman Eric Gaines in Feb. 2010 when he dunked before a game against Furman instead of laying the ball in. And just last Friday, Wake Forest surrendered the first two points of its exhibition matchup with Rollins College because of a pregame technical for dunking.
Any concern the unusual call might be a bad omen for Baylor dissipated in a hurry, however, as the Bears asserted themselves early against Lehigh en route to an easy 99-77 victory.
McCollum had a game-high 36 points to validate his spot on the AP Preseason All-American team, but the Mountain Hawks played without top big man Gabe Knutson and had no answer for Baylor's superior size and athleticism in the paint. The Bears scored 51 first-half points and shot over 60 percent from the floor for the game, easily putting away a Lehigh team that defeated Duke in the NCAA tournament last March and is expected to be formidable again this year.
The only negative for Baylor was an apparent sprained right ankle suffered by promising freshman Isaiah Austin early in the second half. The McDonald's All-American forward had to be helped to the locker room and did not return, a rough ending to an otherwise brilliant debut in which he scored 22 points on 10-for-12 shooting and even showed off his range by sinking a pair of 3-pointers.