With questions looming about whether Jo Lual-Acuil will play, and if Terry Maston’s shooting form will return in his second game back after breaking his hand, the Bears have a difficult challenge at 6:00 tomorrow against TCU. The game is at the Ferrell Center and airs on ESPN News.
Baylor coach Scott Drew says Jo Lual-Acuil will be a game time decision vs. TCU Tuesday night. He missed Tech game with sprained foot.— John Werner (@JohnWernerTrib) January 1, 2018
KenPom has Baylor winning 74-72. Vegas lists the Bears as 2.5 point favorites.
I did a long breakdown of Baylor’s offensive problems here. Given that article touches on many things, and it’s a holiday today, this preview will be a little shorter. As always, we’ll look at playing offense against the opponent, then turn to defense. Finally, we’ll close with a prediction.
TCU is substantially better than they’ve been in the past. But their defense is not good. The Horned Frogs rank 71st on KenPom in defensive efficiency.
TCU is pretty bad in two areas on defense. First, their 2-point defense has been awful. Opponents are shooting 52% from inside the arc. With that terrible statistic, the Horned Frogs are 214th in effective field goal defense. Their opponents often get to the rim, which leaves them vulnerable. Their guards aren’t defensive specialists, and their bigs aren’t the most mobile defenders. As a result, TCU’s opponents have attempted 37.2% of their shots at the rim. They have two good shot blockers—J.D. Miller and Vladimir Brodziansky—but again, this should be a team the Bears can take off the dribble:
TCU also isn’t great at turning over opponents. They rank 235th in that category. That’s a very good sign for Baylor because the Bears are now 150th in offensive turnover rate. The Horned Frogs could ramp up the pressure some against Baylor. Creighton’s not a team that turns opponents over, but Baylor turned it over nearly a quarter of the time against the Jays. So, maybe Jamie Dixon’s squad will be more aggressive, but I wouldn't count on it. College coaches are often reluctant to change things, and the Horned Frogs have a single loss by one point. They’re probably not going to change things against a Baylor team battling injuries.
We’ve covered some good news, but in the Big 12, you rarely get too much of that. TCU does a superb job on the defensive glass. They’re 11th in that category. That’s a giant improvement from their rank of 179th last season. The days of Johnathan Motley ruining the Horned Frogs life on the boards has come to a close; time to find a new way to beat an old foe.
King McClure played very well against TCU in Waco last season. He had 12 points on six shots and an offensive rating of 221. He took semi-open shots and was money off the dribble. TCU didn’t even give much respect to Terry Maston’s pick-and-pop game on the screen, so hopefully if his hand is still bothering him, McClure can still get to the hoop:
TCU’s offense is going to be a problem. The Horned Frogs are good at just about everything on that side of the floor.
TCU has all their starters back from last season’s NIT Champion. They play well together and are a team that is better than their individual pieces. But don’t be mistaken. They have plenty of good pieces. Brodziansky is shooting 71% from the field and is a quality offensive rebounder. Alex Robinson’s struggled from the 3-point line and with turnovers, but his assist numbers and ability to get to the free throw line makes him a challenging assignment. Waco native Kenrich Williams has become a poor man’s Perry Ellis, and Desmond Bane is shooting over 50% from deep. Pitt fans stupidity about Jamie Dixon has given the Big 12 the gift of another good basketball program.
Jaylen Fisher is now a sophomore and his game has made a big leap. He’s shooting better, passing better and turning it over less. The Bears will need to be careful providing too much help if he gets into the paint because the Horned Frogs are shooting 41% from deep. My guess is that Baylor—as usual—plays a lot of zone. If Lual-Acuil is either unable to go, or if he’s severely injured, then they’ll need to find a way to counteract not having him as a weak-side helper. The best bet is probably gambling that the Horned Frogs are a good, but not quite as good as they’ve been shooting team.
This is a weird game to predict. Is Terry Maston going to be able to shoot again? His shoot was not close to back on Friday. Manu Lecomte’s wrist is also bothering him on his non-shooting hand. That seemed to impact his delivery. And then what to make of Lual-Acuil’s injury? If he’s a little slower, a lot of Baylor’s defensive principles are going to be in trouble.
Given all of that, I could see the Horned Frogs blowing out the Bears. This team needs to get healthy, and they’re not. TCU is a good basketball team (what a weird time to be alive). But TCU is not quite as good as they’ve been ranked. The Horned Frogs are No. 26 on KenPom, and they haven’t played a challenging schedule.
I could end up being very wrong on this, but I think the Bears will win. I don’t feel confident in that prediction with the injury issues. Ultimately, I’m guessing TCU’s shooting will betray them, and Maston and McClure will have good games. I’ll take Baylor 72-70.
Season Prediction Record: 13-0
Against the Spread: 5-1