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Baylor at Texas Tech: Preview and Prediction

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Baylor looks to stay in the Big 12 title race

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma at Baylor Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Baylor (16-8, 7-4) takes on Texas Tech (20-5, 8-4) at 1:00 on Saturday in Lubbock. The game airs on ESPN.

The Bears won the first matchup 73-62. Repeating that performance will be a difficult feat. Texas Tech is No. 10 on KenPom, and they’re given a 77% chance to win.

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

Offense:

Baylor had the most impressive offensive performance of the season against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders have the country’s top defense. They rank first in effective field goal defense and fifth in turnovers forced. Since 2002, no team has finished the season in the top five in both defensive categories. Texas Tech held Duke’s nation’s 3rd best offense to .84 points per possession (PPP), which is worse than America’s worst offense averages.

Only three teams have scored at least 1 PPP against Texas Tech. Kansas scored 1.08 and TCU scored 1.03. And then there’s Baylor. The Bears scored 1.12 PPP, which is still the highest total the Red Raiders have allowed.

Baylor built an excellent offensive day for three reasons. First, Baylor took and made a ton of threes. Baylor went 11-of-29 from beyond the arc. In Kansas’ win, they went 13-of-30 from three. Baylor took plenty of NBA threes. Texas Tech didn’t come out that far, and Baylor scored:

The Bears were also willing to take those shots in isolation. Isolation basketball sometimes gets attacked because it’s tougher to get open layups and dunks having to overwhelm a defender. But it’s also easier to avoid turnovers when there are fewer passes; a lower percentage shot is better than no shot at all. The Bears turned it over on 20% of their possessions against Texas Tech. That’s a fine number. The Red Raiders average a turnover on 23.% of defensive possessions, and the Bears normally turn it over on 20% of their possessions. That’s a long way of saying that Baylor didn’t turn it over any more than they usually do, despite playing the nation’s fifth best team at forcing turnovers. In 2017, Baylor had a similar turnover problem and went to Morgantown to face a West Virginia team that was great at turning opponents over. Baylor turned it over 30 times. This Baylor team didn’t turn it over too much when they faced one of best at forcing turnovers. Instead, they let it fly:

The Bears also made plenty of threes by taking advantage of Texas Tech’s defense. When the Red Raiders tagged the roller—they had the third defender on the wing bump down on the big man rolling to the hoop—Baylor had Mason pop out. When Texas Tech elected to ignore Mark Vital, he worked to get rid of the ball quickly and found open shooters. And when Texas Tech overloaded the ball—something they love to do—Mason found an open Devonte Bandoo. Nobody seemed to get the quality of shots Baylor consistently got against Texas Tech:

Second, Baylor was excellent on the offensive glass. They secured 36% of their misses. Vital had five offensive boards, which led to open 3-point shots:

Third, Jared Butler was excellent. He finished with 19 points and five assists. He went 5-of-7 from two. That’s impressive, considering Texas Tech ranks fifth nationally in 2-point defense. If McClure is out, he’ll be counted on again:

The big concern for Baylor—as it has been over the last week—is whether they have McClure and a healthy Mason. Texas Tech’s guards pressure, and Bandoo—the second best 3-point shooter during Big 12 play—will need to have the energy to drill shots if he has to play 35 minutes. That’s tough to ask for a guy that’s been excellent all season learning how to be the best player possible in a 20 minute role.

The second concern for Baylor is if they can shoot as well this time. Texas Tech could play some 2-3 zone, and maybe they’ll rotate well enough that Baylor won’t have as many open looks. But the Bears should be very liberal with what’s an open three. Texas Tech’s defense is much better when they can pack in and help.

Defense:

Texas Tech’s offense can struggle. They rank 89th in adjusted offensive efficiency. The Red Raiders are 281st in 3-point attempts and Jarrett Culver is a monster in isolation. He’ll be a lottery pick. Baylor played quite a bit of zone in Waco, and they’ll probably do that again. If Texas Tech can hit a bunch of threes, then they deserve to win.

Butler forced two big turnovers that led to transition buckets. Texas Tech is 223rd in offensive turnover percentage, so this is a decent time to gamble. If Baylor is down McClure, they’ll need as much Butler as possible, so maybe they’ll tell him to not get too wild trying to pick pockets. I’d tell him to worry about foul trouble until he’s in foul trouble. If you can get out in transition against Texas Tech, do it:

If there’s anything Baylor might be better at this time, it’s 2-point defense. Texas Tech hit 16-of-30 2-point shots in Waco. Culver went on a run late, finishing 8-of-12 from two. With Freddie Gillespie and Flo Thamba likely to see more minutes, they should do a better job contesting shots at the rim.

The Red Raiders might come into this game looking to take more threes. They attempted only 15 threes in the Ferrell Center. Davide Moretti, one of the Big 12’s best shooters, attempted only two triples. Baylor worked to find him on defense, but he’s too good to only take two threes.

Texas Tech has a few common actions in their motion offense. They run quite a few back-cuts and like to get Culver working toward the middle. As impressed as I am by Chris Beard as a coach and their incredible defense, sometimes their offense stagnates and becomes predictable.

Prediction:

Winning on the road is never easy. That’s especially true against a top 10 KenPom team.

Baylor really could use McClure in this one. He’d give Baylor another strong shooter and an excellent defender and offensive rebounder. He’d also free Bandoo to expend more energy in shorter bursts on the court. But his status remains uncertain for Saturday.

This is one of the two toughest games left on Baylor’s schedule. Texas Tech is certainly not unbeatable. But this would be a pretty surprising result. Baylor needs to have a quality shooting day, and with how good Texas Tech’s defense is, and with McClure’s status in doubt, I worry that won’t happen. I hope I’m wrong, but I’ll take Texas Tech 68-62.