February 25th, 2012 Men's Basketball Preview: Oklahoma Sooners at Baylor Bears

The Baylor Bears, coming home off a gritty win in Austin, welcome the struggling Oklahoma Sooners this Saturday afternoon. The Sooners just stopped a 6 game slide, winning the latest Bedlam game over the Oklahoma State Cowboys in Norman, OK 77-64. The Bears have already bested the Sooners in Norman 77-65, and are looking to complete a season sweep.

The Sooners are just 14-13 overall on the year and have gone 4-11 in conference. Their only wins on the year are against the aforementioned Oklahoma State, Texas Tech at home and a shocking season sweep over Kansas State. Their game against the Cowboys was their first win in February. Lon Kruger is a very good coach, but finds himself in a tough situation. Earlier in the year, be built quite a bit of hope and had the Sooners a surprising 10-2 with wins over Washington State, Houston and Arkansas.

However, once the Sooners got into conference, the wheels came off. They started off with a drubbing at Missouri. After 3 straight losses to start the conference slate, they rebounded with 2 wins in a row against Kansas State and Texas Tech. However, since that modest winning streak they are 2-8. Since Blake Griffin left the crimson and cream, they are a terrible 13-34 in the past 3 seasons of Big 12 play (4-12, 5-11 and 4-11).

Rank and Records OU
BAY

RPI

KenPom

Sagarin

BPI

#113

#103

#89

#93


#8

#15

#12

#12

Strength of Schedule #51
#9
Overall 14-13
23-5
Conference 4-11
10-5
Home 10-5
12-3
Away 1-6
8-2
Top 25 0-5
1-4
RPI Top 50 3-8
7-5

The Sooners are playing for pride, while the Bears are playing for seeding. After the jump, we will take a look at the first contest between these two teams, who the Sooners are now, the 5 keys to the game and our prediction.

The First Meeting - January 24th, 2012, Bears win 77-65

The Bears led the entire game and were in control pretty much throughout. The Sooners did mount a comeback to get it to 62-60 at the 4:42 mark, but Baylor answered and closed the game on a 15-5 run.

Baylor received great performances from Perry Jones III, who led the Bears with 21 points and 12 rebounds. He got those 21 points on just 15 shots, and added 2 steals and block. Three other Bears scored in double figures with Perry Jackson chipping in 16, Quincy Acy adding 13 and Anthony Jones giving the Bears 11 points off the bench, with Quincy Miller struggling in this game.

The Bears out rebounded, out shot, and got to the free throw line more than the Sooners. They even took care of the ball with only 12 turnovers. This was a solid, workman like win for the Bears.

Who are these Sooners now?

Oklahoma is the definition of a rebuilding team. The worst part about it is though, is that they are an experienced rebuilding team. You cannot blame their play on youth, really just a lack of top level talent. Their top four players in terms of minutes are Juniors. They start those four juniors plus sophomore Cameron Clark.

Their best player is Steven Pledger, a very good shooter from all over the court. He leads the team in points per game with 16.8, and shoots 47.1% from the field, 82.7% from the free throw line and 42.9% from three-point range. He has a quick release and uses his height of 6-4 to shoot over shorter guards. He is a very good scorer, but prefers to shoot it from deep. He has not shot as well in conference play (just 39.1%) but is still a very capable shooter.

In addition to Pledger, they have two other players scoring in double digits. Romero Osby and Andrew Fitzgerald are both post players that are very good athletes. Both are 6-8 and strong. Fitzgerald is more of a pure post, with Osby playing a little more outside. Osby is their leading rebounder 7.7 rebounds per game. He is their best offensive rebounder as well, so the Bears will need to put a body on him on defense. He went for 16 points and 11 rebounds with 5 offensive rebounds against the Bears earlier this year.

The Sooners really play 5 men most of their minutes, with 3 guys coming off the bench playing between 11 and 16 minutes per game. They really rely on their starters to carry them, and if they get in foul trouble, they do not have a lot of depth to pick up the slack.

5 Keys to the Game

1. Force Turnovers

In the first game with Oklahoma, the Bears only forced 8 turnovers. In the last four games, Baylor has only averaged 11 turnovers per game. The Sooners average 13 per game, and are 3rd in the Big 12 in turnovers margin at +0.80. The Bears need to be aggressive in their defense, man or zone, and get their hands on some balls. With 15 turnovers, the Bears should be able to control the pace a bit more, and help out Key #2.

2. Fast Break Points

With those turnovers, the Bears need to convert them into points. The Bears have struggled getting into their fast break offense the past few games, and that has hurt their offensive efficiency. The Bears just had 3 fast break points against Texas, 2 against Kansas State and non against Iowa State.

Baylor is a very dangerous offense in transition with fast athletic posts that can get to the rim and 3-point shooters that can take advantage of defenses struggling to get back. 8 points in transition would show great improvement and get the Bears some much needed easy points.

3. Perry, Perry, Perry

I said it three times, cause he is the 3rd. I also said it three times because he has had some really bad games (four out of five really) recently and we need him to better. We probably don't need Perry Jones III at his very best Saturday to beat Oklahoma, but we will need him later in the year.

Jones III showed some good aggressive moves against Texas Monday night, he just failed to capitalize on those opportunities. If he can give us at least 16 points with at least 40% shooting and 9 rebounds, I will take that as a step forward.

4. Win the battle from deep

Oklahoma is a bad 3-point shooting team in conference. They are 9th in the league shooting just 32%. They are also not too good at stopping teams, allowing the 8th best percentage from deep at 37.3%. The Bears shoot the 3-point shot well at 37.2%, so the Bears need to take advantage of this chance.

With Pierre Jackson, Brady Heslip and Quincy Miller shooting the ball at home, look for the Bears to give them ample opportunities to shoot it from deep. The Bears average 6.27 made 3s per game, while Oklahoma averages a league low 3.73. I expect the Bears to be +4 on three point shots made, and give them a big edge in that area.

5. Keep a leash on Pledger

He is the one guy that can take over a game for the Sooners and steal one. He is their leading scorer, and their best zone killer. If the Bears come out in a zone (I think they will, but would be surprised if we didn't see a good amount of man as well) and Pledger gets hot, he can take over the game.

Baylor has to keep one of their guards on him and not sink down into the key when he is out there. Bears need to hold him under 22 points, and make him shoot a lot of contested shots. No easy ones Bears.

Prediction

Oklahoma is not a team that should be able to hang with Baylor, especially at home. The Bears are coming off a big win in Austin, one that hopefully will get their heads right for the stretch run. I expect the Bears to come out aggressive and be in control of this game from the tip. Oklahoma is too well coached to get completely blown out, but this one should be a double digit win. Bears win 76-62.

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