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Oklahoma at Baylor Preview and Prediction

Baylor needs a win

NCAA Basketball: Baylor at Oklahoma Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Baylor (17-12, 7-9) takes on Oklahoma (17-11, 7-9) at 8:00 Tuesday. The game airs on ESPN2. And it’s Senior Day!

Baylor lost in Norman 98-96. Both teams played exceptional offensive basketball.

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:

Baylor played about as well as they can on offense in Norman. The Bears scored 1.22 adjusted points per possession (PPP). Oklahoma doesn’t have a great defense—they rank 108th in the country—but Baylor still played well. Oklahoma’s opponents average 1.12 PPP in Big 12 play. Baylor scored well above that.

The Bears shot out of their minds against Oklahoma. They finished 15-of-29 from three. That included a 6-of-6 performance from Nuni Omot and a 7-of-12 night from Manu Lecomte.

Oklahoma’s defense gives opponents chances to take open threes. Lecomte and Omot aren’t going to shoot that well again. But they’ll have chances. Oklahoma ranks 280th in turnover percentage and doesn’t get close on defense. They don’t foul often as a result, but that leaves teams space to pass and shoot. Baylor ran the awesome play/rip action set. Oklahoma didn’t pressure Mark Vital, and he threw a pass to Lecomte after the Tristan Clark screen:

Despite getting hammered for taking a 3-point shot on one of Baylor’s last possessions, Jo Lual-Acuil had a nice game. Oklahoma’s front-line doesn’t have great size to matchup with Baylor’s 7—foot—1 center. He finished 7-of-11 from the field and had three offensive boards. He’s shown some nifty moves getting to the hoop lately, and if he continues, he should be able to get to the hoop:

Baylor needs to do a little bit better on the offensive glass. The Bears nabbed just 10 offensive boards in Norman. But Baylor will certainly take the 3-point shooting they had, if it means grabbing 10 offensive rebounds. Oklahoma ranks 196th in defensive rebounding. There will be opportunities, if Baylor’s shots don’t fall.

With how well Oklahoma shoots, this may not be the best night for Terry Maston. Baylor went small for a lot of the first contest. It’s Senior Day, so Maston will get chances. The Bears would have lost to Texas without him—and likely by a good margin. So, he doesn’t owe the Bears a big night. But he’s not a great option to defend Oklahoma. He may end up off the floor, while Clark and Lual-Acuil spend a lot of time at center.

Defense:

Trae Young is the best player in the country. He had a rough stretch, but his early dominance means he should still win the national player of the year award. He leads the country in scoring and assists. From 1999 to 2012, nobody led a major conference in both points and assists, Young leads the entire country.

Young went on a terrible streak, but he returned to form against Kansas State. He went 6-of-9 from three and had 28 points. He might have had his best game in the first Baylor-Oklahoma game, though picking his best game is tough. He finished with 44 points on six made threes. Most importantly, he got to the line 19 times. The Bears did about all they could to stop him, but he just makes shots:

The Sooners are a good transition team. They mix Young’s full-court passing touch with the fear of having to pick up excellent shooters everywhere. Below, Baylor didn’t pick their defense correctly, and it cost them. The Bears will likely be primarily a man-to-man team in this one. Whatever they are, they must choose:

Baylor tried to hard hedge, and it did not go well early. After Clark stole the ball on the first Oklahoma ball screens, the Sooners started beating Baylor. The Bears have since hard hedged more, but the Bears still prefer to weak and ice. Wit how well Young passes, Baylor’s at risk when hedging:

The Bears probably need an off night from Young or Brady Manek. Manek had gone six games without making half his 3-point shots. But he went 4-of-5 from deep in the first matchup. With his quick release, the Bears can’t lose him:

Prediction:

Oklahoma and Baylor are both fairly high variance teams. When Lecomte and someone else hit threes, the Bears play like a top 15 team. This squad blew out Kansas and knocked off Texas Tech. When they miss shots, they can lose at home to TCU and Kansas State. There’s a reason this team is right on the bubble. Oklahoma goes as Young goes. When he’s on, they’re capable of beating anyone. When he’s off, they have almost no shot against good teams.

It’s Senior Day, and I think this team has one more run. I’m on a bad streak of picking Baylor games, but I think Baylor hits enough shots and finds a way to slow down Young or Manek for a stretch. I’ll take Baylor 78-72.

Season Prediction Record: 23-6

Record Against the Spread: 12-9