No. 20 Baylor (15-5, 3-4) vs. No. 19 Texas (14-6, 3-4)
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Texas is a curious team. For instance, their freshman phenom Myles Turner, a 6-11 forward with a potent face-up game, has attempted more three point shots (37) than sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor (23). Turner's shooting a better percentage, too. At home, Texas have erased West Virginia by 27 points and lost to Oklahoma by 21. Talk about inside, outside, upside down.
Offensively, Texas is fairly similar to Baylor. They have a middling shooting percentage but an elite offensive rebounding rate. While Baylor's second chances come from positioning and energy, Texas has the height you would expect of an effective rebounding team. The Longhorn starting lineup features three players between 6-8 and 6-9, with a 6-10 and a 6-11 player coming off the bench. That's a lot of height. Rico Gathers, Johnathan Motley, and Deng Deng will have their work cut out for them contesting shots, keeping Texas off the glass, and getting shots over long arms.
On offense, the difference in this game for Baylor will be outside shooting. The paint will be a forest. The Bears already have difficulty finishing around the rim, and Texas' length should only exacerbate that. If they can manage to free up Taurean Prince and Royce O'Neale for open threes, and if Kenny Chery and Lester Medford can make some outside shots of their own, Baylor can keep up on the scoreboard.
On defense, Baylor will need to pack the paint and force Texas to take jump shots. When Oklahoma wiped them in Austin, the Longhorns were 6-21 from three. Jonathan Holmes and Javan Felix are the only players who shoot more than 3 threes per game while also making an acceptable rate. If Baylor can keep Taylor out of the paint and force him to become a jump shooter, Texas' offense should stagnate.
Three Quick Keys
1.) Keep the Horns off the offensive glass
2.) Force jump shots
3.) Draw fouls inside
Baylor is favored by 2.5 points at home, while KenPom projects a 3 point win with a 67% chance of victory. Defending home court is imperative for Baylor as it enters the February stretch. So here's my prediction: Rico uses his strength to push around Texas' taller front line, Prince and O'Neale get out in transition and open on the perimeter, and Medford makes plays to open space for his teammates while Texas struggles to get the ball inside and can't hit enough jump shots to win. Texas 60 - Baylor 64.
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