Baylor (24-6, 11-6) ends the regular season at 3:00 on Saturday against Texas (10-20, 4-13). The game airs on ESPN.
Baylor is a heavy favorite in this one. The Bears won the first matchup 74-64. Johnathan Motley had 32 points and 20 rebounds. He destroyed Texas:
Baylor’s work on the glass overwhelmed a poor shooting day by Bears not named Johnathan Motley. Baylor only shot 4-of-17 from 3-point range against Texas, but the Bears nabbed 17 offensive rebounds. That number was a key factor in Baylor averaging 1.06 points per possession against Texas. The Longhorns have a pretty solid defense. They rank 25th on KenPom, and opponents normally score just .948 points per possession.
But the Longhorns rank 230th in defensive rebounding percentage. The Bears rank 3rd nationally in offensive rebounding percentage and have actually been better the last several weeks- ranking 1st in Big 12 play with an offensive rebound on 41.3% of possessions. The Bears should be able to control the glass once again.
Texas has been bad—they finished 0-14 on the road—- because their offense has been awful. The Longhorns rank 180th in offense on KenPom. The 2016 team ranked 49th. Without a traditional point guard, Texas ranks 249th in turnover percentage. Worse yet, they rank 338th in 3-point percentage and 319th in free throw percentage. Texas went 2-of-19 from three in Waco. They may not be quite that bad, but the 2017 Longhorns are still quite bad.
The Longhorns best offense often comes in the paint. Jarrett Allen is probably playing his last game before leaving for the NBA. He had 17 and 10 in the first contest, but Motley showed the young man how to wear a headband:
Shaq Cleare, Eric Davis and Andrew Jones are all solid offensive players. But none of those guys has exceptional range. Jones did well in transition in the first contest, so Baylor will need to watch out for him in this one.
Finally, Manu Lecomte might miss this game with his lingering ankle injury. He missed the West Virginia game, and the Bears were able to win. The Bears are not experiencing a “Ewing Theory” moment. Baylor is worse without Lecomte. The reason the Bears beat West Virginia and are playing better is because they’re experiencing the rebirth of the shooting guard now known as Allerik Freeman. He’s 8 of his last 10 from 3-point range. If he keeps shooting like that, Baylor will return to the offensive heights of the last several seasons.
The 2017 Longhorns have been awful. No Big 12 team in memory has been as bad relative to expectations as this squad. But Shaka Smart has a good class next season, and he did a good job with a great point guard last year. I think we’re all a little too quick to think Smart is finished.
Yet, the 2017 Longhorns will be finished after Saturday. Even without Lecomte, Baylor is a lot better than Texas. I got the final score exactly right in the first game. I don’t think I’ll be able to do that again, but I’ll take Baylor 76-68.