After a putrid offensive start to Big 12 play, Baylor (11-6, 1-4) takes on Oklahoma State (12-5, 2-3) at 8:00. The game is in the Ferrell Center and airs on ESPNU.
With Martin Luther King Day and quick turnaround from the game in Ames, this preview will not be as detailed as usual. The Kansas preview—regardless of how this contest goes—should be 2,000 words. But today’s will not be as long.
As usual though, we’ll look at offense against the opponent, then turn to defense. Finally, we’ll close with a prediction.
Baylor’s offense has been worse than anybody could have imagined to start conference play. Someone can be right about the outcome but wrong about how things happen. A lot of folks thought the Iraq War would be a mistake. Few thought it would be a mistake because Saddam Hussein lacked WMDs. Similarly, some folks thought Baylor would have a down season. Few thought it would happen because Baylor would have an offense that rivaled the disastrous 2011 campaign.
Here are Baylor’s 2018 conference offensive numbers compared to the 2011 squad’s:
The offense has really struggled: pic.twitter.com/GDfhryzeB6— Kendall (@kkaut) January 15, 2018
The number that should really stick out is just how bad this team has been from deep. Manu Lecomte has opened Big 12 play 7-of-34 from 3-point land. Nuni Omot—a man who went 14-of-21 at one stretch during non-conference play— is now 1-of-7 from beyond the arc in Big 12 play. There’s just no way those dudes are that bad. Even the biggest Baylor hater would acknowledge this team won’t shoot that poorly. The Bear’s 25.3% mark, over the course of a full season, would be the worst shooting percentage in D-1 basketball. This team opened the season going 12-of-17 from three, which was the best mark in college basketball after one game. Life is a funny thing, but eventually things return to normal. The Bears are a streaky team that might be below average from deep, but they aren’t the worst shooting team in the country.
Oklahoma State ranks No. 69 on defense. They’re good at turning over opponents—ranking 44th in that category, and they do a nice job limiting 2-point offense. That’s a little worrying for the Bears, so they’ll need to make sure they avoid lazy passes at the top of the key because the Cowboys will pick those off. They also need to count on aggressive double teams in the post. My guess is that Oklahoma State’s defensive plan looks very different than how TCU played Baylor. Expect the Cowboys’ defense to look far closer to Texas Tech’s than the other two Texas schools Baylor’s played in conference.
This game on offense comes down to how Baylor plays. They’ll likely get plenty of 3-point chances. This team hasn’t made them. Until they do, defenses will give them chances. The Bears have to make some shots tonight. They just can’t keep shooting this poorly and expect to have different results than the heartbreak they had against TCU and West Virginia.
Oklahoma State ranks 150th on offense. After losing Jawun Evans and Phil Forte (finally), the Cowboys attack has not been great. They’re shooting just 33% from beyond the arc, but they take quite a few—ranking 122nd nationally in attempts.
I’d expect Baylor to play a ton of zone and focus on Jeffrey Carroll. He’s only hit 32% of his triples on the season, but he nailed 44% of his 131 looks last year. He’s been much better to start conference play, so he’s a big candidate to start taking over games.
The Cowboys play with excellent effort. They were down 12 late at home against Texas. They came back to win that game on Saturday. The Cowboys aren’t afraid to shoot or of the moment. The roster is quite different than last season—and is now led by first year coach, Mike Boynton—but they still might give the best effort in the Big 12, even when the game seems over.
The Bears basically have to win this game, if they want to make the tournament. The Bears are favored on KenPom, and Vegas lists them as six point favorites. In a league this good, the Bears won’t be favored too many times.
Baylor has a better roster and is due to make some shots. Oklahoma State is a heck of a lot better than Iowa State, so the Bears could certainly lose. But things eventually return to normal. I’ll take Baylor 70-63.
Season Prediction Record: 13-3
Prediction Against the Spread: 7-3