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Baylor-Wichita State Preview and Prediction

NCAA Basketball: Texas A&M CC at Baylor Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears play Wichita State at 1:00 on Saturday. The game is at the Ferrell Center and will air on ESPNU.

If you want a longer look at Wichita State, I wrote an article previewing them for SBNation.com before the season. The Shockers were my preseason national championship pick.

Both teams are dealing with injuries. Baylor is down to just seven scholarship players after Terry Maston broke his right hand. Wichita State is for sure without Markis McDuffie, the Shockers second best player. Landry Shamet has a sprained ankle, but I expect he’ll play. Zach Brown has a bruised knee and his status for Saturday is up in the air.

Even with the injuries, the Shockers remain a formidable team. For the purposes of this preview, I’m assuming Shamet will play. He’s so fundamental to what the Shockers do. If he’s out, the Bears will be favored.

As always, we’ll look at Baylor’s offense and defense against their opponent. Then we’ll conclude with a prediction.

Offense:

Wichita State has the nation’s No. 13 defense. Shaq Morris is a load in the paint. Shamet moves about as well as any guard in the country. And Rashard Kelly can guard multiple positions. Wichita State and Texas are the two best defenses Baylor will see this season.

The only thing the Shockers struggle with on defense is forcing turnovers. They rank 313th in that category. But the Shockers are excellent at contesting shots. They’re 17th in 2-point defense and do a good job not fouling opponents. Here, Kelly recovers and contests Bonzie Colson, one of the best players in the country:

The biggest concern Wichita State presents is their ability to hard hedge ball screens. The Shockers mix ball screen defenses, but regardless of what they do, Kelly and Morris move very well. Kelly moves so quickly that Notre Dame had no shot to take advantage of their coverage:

Baylor’s had a problem the last two seasons dealing with defenses that can hard hedge. Manu Lecomte is Baylor’s best player. At only 6 feet, he can struggle to quickly pass over big men that come out on defense. Too often against Creighton and Xavier he couldn’t create an advantage in the pick-and-roll:

One way to beat hard hedges is to run defending big men into each other. A few coaches hate having their defenses hard hedge because the defender can end up basically screening the other defender. Lecomte forced that in the second half against Creighton. The shot didn’t go in, but the process was exactly right:

Wichita State is not immune to this problem. Here, the Shockers end up bumping into each other, which creates space to attack. There are times to wait and see how the world moves. With a seven man rotation, Lecomte and Baylor’s guards have to attack if the Shockers make mistakes. They can’t pick up their dribble at 25 feet like Matt Farrell does:

With Maston gone, the Bears have to get more from everyone. Nuni Omot’s been the new wing player in the “awesome play.” The rip action set involves Omot (or Mark Vital at times too) catching the ball on the right side of the court. The man then fires the ball into the post, or can hit a 3-point shooter running off a down screen in the paint. Omot did not fire a pass on this play against Creighton:

If you can’t tell, Jo Lual-Acuil is wide open:

The strength of that play, and what made it the “awesome play,” is that it requires almost no opening for the big man to dunk:

The Shockers are also fantastic at defensive rebounding. They rank 4th in the country in that stat, and they allow their opponents to collect less than 20% of their misses. Maston had been the Bear’s best offensive rebounder, so the Bears will really be tested to try and maintain a usual team strength.

Wichita State’s opponents do take a ton of 3-point shots. Five of the last six years they have ranked 200th or worse in percentage of opponent shots taken from beyond the arc. Jake Lindsey has been way too reluctant to shoot this season. He’s an awesome teammate and opened the season with 20 assists and no turnovers. But the Bear’s rotation without Maston demands Lindsey’s scoring increase. He hit 40% of his 3-point shots last season. He’s attempted only seven 3-point shots this season. In the following picture, Lual-Acuil fired a pass to Lindsey as the defense was reeling. He’s got to shoot if Wichita State’s on a delayed rotation against him. He didn’t here:

The Bears will also have to decide how they change their lineup against the Shockers. With only seven scholarship players, the Bears could have Lindsey or McClure run the point more and tell Lecomte that his job is to score, not look for others. Or they could just decide that Omot, Lindsey, Vital and Clark need to provide more offense in the same role. Sadly, the Bears will have a while without Maston to decide how to win.

The Shockers can also get weird on defense. They had a giant second half deficit in the Maui Invitational against Cal. Then they full-court pressed and just rolled Cal. With the Bears past turnover problems, I’d expect Gregg Marshall to have the Shockers press some:

Defense:

Shamet will be a unique problem. The Big 12 is filled with awesome point guards. None are like Shamet. He’s a 6-foot-5 guy who moves so effortlessly. He was the best player in an NCAA Tournament game that featured Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk. With an unbelievably quick release, he made 44% of his 160 3-point attempts last season. And he’s a monster getting to the rim and shoots nearly 71% at the hoop:

The Shockers have the nation’s No. 6 offense, despite playing without their second best player. They do about everything well, including hitting 58% of their 2-point shots. With big Shaq Morris hitting 78% of his looks there, and Rauno Nerger hitting 75% of his attempts near the hoop, the Shockers are a force near the hoop.

Baylor’s defensive rebounding will be tested. Wichita State ranks 15th in offensive rebounding. They collect over 38% of their missed shots. That keyed their comeback against Cal, as Morris and others gathered easy opportunities. The Bears are usually a good defensive rebounding team, but Xavier grabbed over 41% of their missed shots. Over the course of the season, that total would rank 6th nationally. Xavier’s not close to the offensive rebounding squad Wichita State is either. Saturdays are for the boys. Time for them to own the glass.

Conner Frankamp is going to make Scott Drew nervous playing much zone. He played for KU’s 2013-2014 team. Joel Embiid was on that team. Frankamp is taking a victory lap. And man, can he shoot. He’s only shooting 30% on the young season, but he hasn’t lost his talent. He hit 44% of his 163 attempts last season. Many of them were from NBA range:

Baylor will likely play a lot of zone though. Notre Dame’s 2-3 zone stifled Wichita State’s offense for a while. The Shockers missed some three point shots, but Baylor’s going to need Wichita State to miss a few to win. I’d expect to see the Bears focus less on trapping and more on rotating quickly to Wichita State’s shooters. They’ll probably try and force Morris and some of the Shocker’s wings to hit 2-point shots. They might not be able to force them to shoot too many of those shots, and Wichita State might make the ones they take. The Bears will hope that’s not the case.

Prediction:

Without Maston, this is an extremely tough game to win. Maston can pop and hit shots so well. He’s a unique piece to throw the Shockers off from some of what they do best.

Wichita State is one of the best teams in the country. They’re still my pick to win the national title. Shamet is a monster, and they have all five starters back from last season’s top ten KenPom team.

For Baylor to win, Lecomte or McClure needs a giant game, and the Bears need the Shockers to be a little off shooting the ball. That could happen, but without Maston, the Bears are the underdog.

I hope I’m wrong, but I have Wichita State winning 68-60.

Prediction record: 6-0

Spread record: 2-1