Baylor (10-1) takes on Texas (10-2) at 7:00 tonight in the Ferrell Center. The game airs on ESPN2.
SATURDAY NIGHT IN WACO— Baylor Athletics (@BaylorAthletics) January 3, 2020
Cheer on #⃣6⃣ @BaylorMBB in the #Big12MBB opener presented by H-E-B.
️ Saturday, January 4
⏰ 7:00 P.M.
️ https://t.co/xGha0h61aA#SicEm pic.twitter.com/2pkFpCy6yX
The Bears are 9.5 point favorites on most books. KenPom gives Baylor an 81% chance to win.
Texas has been a little worse than I expected. They have a nice win over Purdue, but the Longhorns have double-digit losses to Providence and Georgetown, two teams that would be thrilled to make the NCAA Tournament. Texas is ranked No. 63 on KenPom, and if that number doesn’t improve, they’ll miss the tournament and ensure Shaka Smart’s done in Austin.
As always, we’ll preview playing offense against the opponent, then turn to defense. Finally, we’ll close with a prediction.
Baylor’s big advantage against Texas is on the offensive glass. Texas ranks just 235th in defensive rebounding. While there isn’t a massive correlation, Texas has been a decent bit worse at defensive rebounding as their opponents overall offensive rebounding rate improves. The graph below on the x-axis (the horizontal one) shows the opponent’s average offensive rebound percentage (what percent of the time a team collects an offensive rebound on all their missed shots) against the opponent’s offensive rebound percentage in their game against Texas:
Texas’ defense is led by Luke Yaklich, a former assistant at Michigan. Last season, his Wolverines were second in defensive efficiency. Their main principle is defending without too much help. That’s shown in Texas’ 3-point attempt numbers. They rank 15th in 3-point shots allowed because they have their guys stay attached to shooters.
Baylor will need their guards to win in isolation. I’d expect Baylor to run a bit of pick-and-rolls from 1-4 low. In that alignment, a guard has the ball up top while the four other players play close to the hoop. When the big comes up to set a screen, then the ball-handler can work toward the hoop and preclude help. Georgetown showed the way:
This could be a big day for MaCio Teague. Matt Coleman is a very good defender and will likely focus on Jared Butler. But Texas’ guards aren’t quite as good defensively after Coleman. If Baylor puts Devonte Bandoo and Butler away from the ball, then Texas will likely stay home on them, and Teague can work to the hoop, like he did against Villanova:
Davion Mitchell’s speed is also going to be an issue for Texas. I don’t think Jase Febres and Courtney Ramey can stay with him well, which means they’ll probably have to hope they can get late contests.
Texas’ offense has gone from 29th last season to 109th this year. With the loss of Jaxson Hayes to the NBA, Will Baker—a high 4-star prospect—has not been the same player as the last three lottery-pick-bigs at Texas.
After a disappointing sophomore season, Jericho Sims has had a resurgence. His quick leaping ability and strength might force Baylor to play big for longer stretches. He’s a problem:
Barring a terrible Baylor game, the most likely path to a Texas victory is for them to get hot from three. Their 9-of-22 shooting from deep keyed the upset of the Boilermakers. The Bears can live with Coleman making floaters, they can’t live with getting too aggressive tagging the big man rolling to the hoop. Purdue’s defense shouldn’t be Baylor’s:
Baylor should be able to limit Texas’ dribble penetration. Mitchell will be a menace for Coleman, so unless Andrew Jones can get to the hoop, the Longhorns should struggle getting much done on the ball.
Texas is fairly adept at cutting. Baylor struggled defending cuts against Villanova, but the Bears did a much better job preparing for Butler’s cuts. Baylor needs to put this game away—not struggle in the second half like they did against Arizona and Butler—and letting Texas get a few easy buckets on cuts can’t happen:
Texas has underachieved. It’s fair to wonder if they can get better play from a few young guys and turn things around. Smart does have a Final Four, and they’re team is rolling in 4-star talent.
Baylor has a better team than Texas. In an 18 game league slate, really good teams lose a game to a team like Texas. But in that same format, teams like Texas lose almost all their games to teams as good as Baylor.
The Bears next two games are at Texas Tech and at Kansas. With that brutal stretch, Baylor needs this win.
I think Baylor has a nice shooting day and this one is more high scoring than the Arizona or Butler games. I’ll take Baylor 76-64.