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Baylor at Texas Preview and Prediction

Sic ‘Em!

NCAA Basketball: Texas at Baylor Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

After winning their third straight game, Baylor (15-10, 5-7) takes on Texas (15-10, 5-7) at 8:00 on Monday. The game airs on ESPN.

Baylor won the first meeting 69-60. KenPom lists Texas as a 59% favorite and has them winning 65-62.

As always, we’ll preview playing offense against the opponent, then turn to defense. Finally, we’ll close with a prediction.

Offense:

Texas has a fantastic defense. The Longhorns are 8th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. With a giant front-line led by future top 10 NBA Draft pick Mo Bamba, Texas ranks 25th nationally in block rate.

Baylor scored 1.00 points per possession (PPP) in the first matchup. That number is higher than Texas’ normal .93 mark, but it’s lower than the Longhorn’s 1.07 average in Big 12 games.

The Bears did a nice job getting Jo Lual-Acuil the ball. He finished with 17 points on 15 shots. He led the Bears in plus/minus at +15. He did an excellent job getting to the rim, which helped the Bears counteract Texas’ hedging:

There are two areas where Texas isn’t great: defensive rebounding and forcing turnovers. The Bears are excellent on the offensive glass—ranking 22nd nationally. But the Bears grabbed just 25% of their misses in Waco, so there’s no guarantee Baylor will do well on securing offensive boards. With a host of big men—including their traditional lineup with Bamba and Dylan Osetkowski—rebounding against Texas isn’t always easy. Baylor turned it over 15 times in the first game and still won by nine. It seems unlikely Texas will force more turnovers than that. Even as bad as Baylor’s been turning it over, this Texas team doesn’t focus on turning opponents over. But the Bears can’t get lazy passing it, especially when Texas plays zone:

Baylor’s going to need to shoot better from three in Austin. The Bears went just 3-of-12 from 3-point land in Waco. The Longhorns rank 101st in the country in percentage of shots taken from beyond the arc, so not taking too many isn’t that wild. But the Longhorns will likely play some zone to make the Bears prove they can make shots. Manu Lecomte’s been on fire lately, if he’s shooting like this, then the Bears will be in business:

Texas had a terrible outing on Saturday. They gave up 1.38 PPP to TCU. They’ve lost 3-of-4 games. In the Big 12, everything seems fine or like it’s over until it’s not. This team is capable of locking down anyone. They’re also dangerously close to missing the NCAA Tournament.

Defense:

Texas is not a very good offensive team. They rank 117th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency and are last in the Big 12 in that metric.

The Longhorns scored just .87 PPP in Waco. But they had a strong first half. Baylor opened in zone, daring a Texas team that ranks 316th nationally in 3-point percentage to make shots. Unfortunately, they did. Shaka Smart inserted Jase Febres into the starting lineup, and he went 4-of-5 from beyond the arc in the first half. With him shooting like this, the Longhorns scored a very nice 1.11 PPP in the first half:

Baylor did a superb job in the second half. Texas scored an abysmal .57 PPP in the second half. The worst offense in America scores .87 PPP, and Kansas scored just .66 PPP against Baylor in the first half on Saturday. It’s truly wild that a team scored so few points per possession. But the Longhorns fell in love with the three and went just 2-of-13 from distance. Excluding Bamba, no Longhorn shot better than 20% from the field in the second half.

Bamba is Texas’ best player, by far. With a 7—foot—9 wingspan, he can catch and finish on lobs from space. He ranks in the top 100 in offensive rebounding and is a force slipping pick and rolls and getting to the hoop. The Bears have to be careful when they drop the big man in pick-and-roll coverage:

The Bears should play as much zone as possible. Osetkowski is only shooting 27% from deep. He’s had an offensive rating above 100 one time in his last eight games. If he can drain a bunch of threes against the zone, then Baylor will realize luck has turned against them. But other than Eric Davis (37%) and Jase Febres (33%), there’s nobody that’s much of a 3-point threat. Scott Drew and the staff can live with the Longhorns getting too hot from three. They can’t live with Kerwin Roach or Bamba making a ton of layups.

Baylor might be able to play small for a few minutes. If Texas exploits the zone for lobs or back-door cuts, then the Bears could play some small ball and add some speed along one of the wing spots in the zone. Texas ranks just 174th in offensive rebounding, which makes them unlikely to feast on a smaller Baylor group.

Prediction:

If you believe Baylor 2018 is following Baylor 2014’s blueprint, then the Bears would lose this game. The 2014 team started 2-8 in Big 12 play and finished 9-9. Their only loss during that run was at Texas. Obviously, what happened in 2014 doesn’t have any bearing on what happens on Monday though.

I think Baylor has a better team than Texas, and a good zone is the best way to defend Texas. The Longhorns might get stupidly hot from three, but this is one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the country.

My guess is that Baylor hits a few more threes than they did in Waco, and Terry Maston has a nice game from the field. I’ll take Baylor 74-68.

Season Prediction Record: 21-4

Against the Spread: 10-7