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Texas Tech at Baylor Preview and Prediction

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Baylor looks to win five in a row

NCAA Basketball: Baylor at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

After winning their fourth straight game, Baylor (16-10, 6-7) takes on Texas Tech (22-4, 10-3) at 6:30 on Saturday in the Ferrell Center. The game airs on ESPNU.

The Red Raiders have won seven straight games and hold a one game lead in the Big 12 race. With Kansas still set to visit to Lubbock, Texas Tech could legitimately end Kansas’ Big 12 title run.

Baylor was blown out in the first meeting, 77-53. Jo Lual-Acuil sat out with a foot injury, and Terry Maston played his first game after breaking his hand. Manu Lecomte also dealt with a left wrist injury. The Bears will look quite different, but the Red Raiders will still be excellent.

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

Offense:

Texas Tech is fantastic on defense. They rank 3rd nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. They’re top 10 nationally in effective field goal defense. And with excellent size on the perimeter, they can steal just about any pass:

The Bears struggled to score out of their best sets in the first contest. Without Lual-Acuil and with a hobbled Maston, Baylor’s normally reliable high horns play went nowhere:

Texas Tech also sniffed out Baylor’s awesome play. Maston couldn’t spring free under the hoop, and Nuni Omot ended up facing a double team. Chris Beard’s team is well prepared on defense. The first action can often fail:

Texas Tech will hard hedge quite a bit, but they’ll sometimes go under screens. King McClure played well in Lubbock. He’ll need to play well in Waco too. The Red Raiders are a difficult team to get excellent shots in primary actions; taking off the dribble open looks is a good move against a defense like this. Fire away:

Texas Tech does a nice job swarming the ball in the post. And they’re the best college team I’ve seen since Kentucky 2015 at blocks from helpers. Zhaire Smith is just 6—foot—5, but he’s top 200 nationally in block rate. The Bears can’t go up soft or think they have guaranteed buckets. Any victory is likely to be close. Don’t blown easy opportunities.

There are two weaknesses Texas Tech has defensively. First, they can overload the strong side and are vulnerable to passes to the weak-side. Again, this is an excellent defense. Their weaknesses still leave them as a great defense. But sealing defenders on the weak-side can leave shooters open:

Second, Texas Tech fouls a ton. They rank 8th in the Big 12 in defensive free throw rate and 264th nationally. This generally hasn’t been fatal. In their non-Seton Hall losses, the offense has blown the game. But if Baylor can get in the bonus early or force Tech to sit a key player, then it’s a way to steal some points against a wonderful defense.

Hopefully Maston is making shots. He scored 22 points in Lubbock last season. He did a nice job isolating and scoring against Texas’ top 10 defense. The man makes tough shots and what are normally low percentage looks. He’s an old school man designed to make what the defense surrenders. If he can have a big game, Baylor might be able to win, even if Texas Tech has a nice day from the field.

Defense:

If not for Trae Young, Keenan Evans would be running away with Big 12 Player of the Year. The senior point guard is good at about everything, though his 3-point shooting is streaky. He uses a ton of possessions but still scores effectively.

Texas Tech’s best play might be “45.” The Clippers used to run that with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Tech gets plenty of phenomenal looks because Evans draws attention. If the defense ignores him, he can get layups. If they focus on him, he can hit one of their big men, including Nore Odiase:

Texas Tech is a pretty solid offensive team, ranking 60th in adjusted offensive efficiency. But they can struggle with shooting. They take just 34.1% of their shots from beyond the arc, which ranks 262nd nationally. In their three Big 12 losses, they’ve shot: 6-of-25, 7-of-27 and 6-of-26 from deep. For Baylor to win, it’s probably necessary that the Red Raiders shoot poorly from beyond the arc. But it’s not sufficient. Texas Tech went just 6-of-24 on triples in their victory at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas’ problem was that Texas Tech grabbed an offensive rebound on 46% of their misses. Baylor needs to play good first shot defense and then control the defensive glass.

Baylor should probably play zone and gamble that Texas Tech will miss shots. In man-to-man—and they’ll certainly switch defenses some—-I’d look to weak and ice when defending pick-and-rolls. Evans and Smith can fall in love with long 2-point shots. That duo will make them, but if they do, the Bears aren’t going to beat a top 10 team (unless they have an insane shooting day like Seton Hall did).

Texas beat Texas Tech in Austin and forced overtime in Lubbock. The Longhorns shot a little better than usual, but they deserve credit for rebounding well. Texas Tech had just 18 total offensive rebounds in the series, which was well below their normal rate. This is a game where Baylor should be able to stay big and hit the boards.

Prediction:

After some offensive problems following the loss of Zach Smith for the season, Texas Tech has returned to supremacy. They’ve won six straight Big 12 games, and the last four have been by double digits. This team is hot.

KenPom gives Baylor a 46% chance to win and has the Bears losing by two points. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Bears lost a close one to the Red Raiders.

I think Texas Tech misses some shots, and the Bears hit a few big threes. McClure or Omot could have a pretty big game, and then Maston could help the Bears quell a second half run by the Red Raiders. I’ll take Baylor 70-66.

Season Prediction Record: 22-4

Record Against the Spread: 11-7