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Baylor vs. Missouri Preview 2/11

Note from MCM-- I am proud to introduce you to ODB's newest basketball contributor, Tim Watkins! Hopefully he'll class this place up a little bit (I'm looking at you, Prashanth).

Mark recently sent out a call to arms looking for assistance on the basketball side of the site. Well, I guess he got stuck with me. I am a 2004 graduate and avid basketball fan. I probably spend way too much time watching games and thinking about my most favorite thing in the world (outside of my wife)- college basketball. I am going to be providing some game previews, recaps, and some interesting thoughts on the Lady Bears, Bears, and hopefully entertaining you a tad bit.

Well let's get to the preview! The Bears will be involved in their fourth Top 10 battle this year (and in their history) this Saturday against conference leading Missouri. Missouri is coming off a tough Monday night game in Norman against Oklahoma squad that had a chance at the buzzer to take the #3 ranked Tigers to overtime. However, the shot fell short and Missouri escaped with a valuable conference road win.

Baylor is coming off a much discussed and ballyhooed contest with the seven time reigning Big 12 champion Kansas Jayhawks. Baylor fell to the Jayhawks in a game that was not as close as the 14 point final deficit would indicate. With three of four games down against the other top 2 teams in the Big 12, this is the Bears last chance to get a win against their main competition for the Big 12 crown. Let's take a look at how they match up.

Missouri and Baylor are two squads that could not be arranged any more differently. One teams plays an aggressive man-to-man defense while the other plays a zone defense. While Missouri no longer presses or uses the "40 minutes of hell" defense made popular by Nolan Richardson of Arkansas fame they did under Mike Anderson, they still play a in your face man to man defense. Their defense leads the Big 12 in turnover margin and steals.

Missouri is also playing much more deliberately on the offensive end. While they will still get out in transition when forcing turnovers and long rebounds, they no longer take the first good look they can get. They use much more of a motion style offense (think Villanova under Jay Wright a few years ago).

Missouri only plays 7 players that all average between 25 and 34 minutes per game. Only two of those players are taller than 6'6" yet they 6th in rebounding margin during Big 12 play. They are outrebounded by 1.3 rebounds per game on average. Contrast that to the Bears outrebounding their opponents by 3.5 during league play. Missoui's leading scorer is Marcus Denmon, who has been on fire the last two game, scoring 29 and 25 points in wins over Kansas and Oklahoma. Phil (Flip) Pressey is a pure point guard who really controls their offense. He averages 2.24 assists per turnover.

For Baylor in this game, I think it comes down to one thing: effort. That sounds simple, but that truly was the biggest issue I thought from the Kansas games and the Missouri game in Waco. The Bears did not fight for the full 40 minutes. What can Drew do to maximize the effort our Bears give?

First, I would go to a more trapping zone in the paint and key shooting areas. Missouri really likes to dribble penetrate and kick out to the weak side for open three-pointers. They have 4 guards that can all penetrate the paint, but their best is Phil Pressey. I would like to see a hard trap on him in the back court to make him move the ball. He is not nearly as good without the ball, and struggles with his spot up shooting. I would much rather have him taking a contested 3-pointer than Marcus Denmon.

I would also like the Bears to focus on Ratliffe on the offensive glass. He destroyed us in the earlier games due to sloppy and late rotations. the Missouri guards want you to rotate to them so that they can dump it off to Ratliffe or throw something up for him to go grab off the glass. We have to keep a body on Ratliffe and make it hard on him. Force him out of the paint and make him take some shots he is not comfortable with.

Offensively, we really need to use our big bodies to set screens and get Brady Heslip open for some good looks. If he is out there, he has to shoot and make shots. Otherwise, he does not bring that much to the floor. We also have to exploit our size advantage, and make them double down in the post. Quincy Miller, Quincy Acy and Perry Jones III have to be aggressive and fight for good position down low. We can also expect Cory Jefferson to get some looks like he did against Kansas, but he needs to do a better job of not forcing shots.

This is going to be a tough game for the Bears. They are coming in a wounded animal and will be going into an arena where the Tigers have not lost all year.

Keys to the Game:

1. Control the glass - Baylor has to punish the smaller Tigers on the glass and get extra possessions as well as limit 2nd chance points for Missouri.

2. Assists-to-Turnovers- The Bears are a much better offense when the ball is moving and they are getting assists. I would love to see a 1.5-1 ratio at least.

3. Quick starts to BOTH halves- Baylor has been struggling after halftime the past few games, giving up runs to Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, and Kansas. Getting out to a good start at the beginning of the game and to start the half will also limit the crowd.

4. Perry Jones III- Need the big guy playing big. Without him, we probably lose against the Aggies and Cowboys. Well, he didn't show up to play against Kansas. Another double-double would help the Bears set the tone on the boards and maybe even get some interior scoring.

5. Control Ratliffe-
He is the most efficient player in college basketball this year and has a chance to break the season FG%. He is at 75.5% shooting for the year. The most amazing thing about Ratliffe? He has not made a shot with both feet outside of the paint all year. He knows his role and plays to his strengths. Baylor has to force him out of the paint and keep him off the offensive glass.