Baylor (11-1, 1-0) starts the toughest week of the regular season against Texas Tech (10-3, 1-0) at 8:00 on Tuesday in Lubbock. The game airs on ESPN2.
Texas Tech is ranked No. 22 on KenPom. They have a win against Louisville (No. 6) and just beat Oklahoma State (No. 49) by 35 points.
The Red Raiders have three losses. They lost to Iowa by 11, and they have a pair of overtime defeats against Creighton and DePaul. The Red Raiders didn’t have their best player, Jahmi’us Ramsey, in the Creighton or DePaul games.
Texas Tech remains a mystery. When they’re good—and they were really good against Oklahoma State—they look like the team that was nearly national champions last season. But when they’re off—and they’ve had some rough stretches against sub 250 KenPom teams—they look like a team that doesn’t belong in the NCAA Tournament.
As always, we’ll look at playing offense against the opponent, turn to defense and then close with a prediction.
Texas Tech’s defense is led by assistant coach Mark Adams. His philosophy is “no middle.” The Red Raiders don’t want the ball to enter the middle of the floor because it’s easier to get to the basket and pass to anywhere on the court from the middle.
The 2018-2019 Bears had the second most successful offensive day of the season against the Red Raiders. Only Virginia in the national title game had a more efficient offense against Texas Tech. The Bears worked Texas Tech in Waco by taking deep threes and quickly moving the ball. They also would drive along the baseline and then wait for Texas Tech to miss a rotation and drill threes.
Playing Texas Tech is like dating someone that says they will not eat Italian food. You might think, “No, I make spaghetti better than anyone. I am going to make my spaghetti and change everything.” Then you make the spaghetti and your date won’t even eat. You finally convince her to try some, and then she throws her fork down. That’s Texas Tech with the middle of the floor. Plenty of teams try to get to the middle. It doesn’t work. Texas Tech will not give up the middle. Basketball can be won without trying to make it to the middle of the floor, just like some people can make a relationship work with one of them hating Italian food. You might think you’re the team to finally go middle against Texas Tech, but it’s not going to happen. Win another way.
Jordan Sperber, a former Nevada graduate assistant and current publisher of Hoop Vision, has a nice breakdown of how Louisville’s offensive was crushed against Texas Tech:
Louisville tried to keep the ball in the middle third of the court last night against Texas Tech.— Jordan Sperber (@hoopvision68) December 11, 2019
How Texas Tech held Louisville to just 0.75 PPP by denying and switching to disrupt Louisville's Hi Lo and butt screen actions.
(sound on ) pic.twitter.com/L0vKNN5hHH
There are a few ways Baylor can attack Texas Tech. First, they can make floaters along the baseline. MaCio Teague, Jared Butler and Matthew Mayer have that in their games. The Red Raiders will surrender this shot, and Teague and company should take it:
Second, Baylor needs to push the ball at every chance. Texas Tech hasn’t been great at finding shooters in transition, and Baylor averages over 1.2 points per possession in transition. You don’t have to worry about Texas Tech stopping your offense from getting to the middle when they aren’t set:
Third, Baylor can rely on some weak-side screening. Texas Tech’s defense asks their players to move between playing individual zones and helping men that are helping someone else. Those large responsibilities can lead to threes. I expect Texas Tech will ignore Mark Vital when he’s away from the ball, which means he might be able to set screens for 3-point shooters. Oklahoma State had some early success with screens away from the ball:
Finally, Baylor can space the floor and hit open shooters away from the ball. I’d like to see Baylor set quite a few screens on one side, then park two of Mayer, Bandoo, Teague and Butler on the opposite side of the court.
The Bears can also have someone run a pick-and-roll and then lift a shooter up high. That requires keeping a few shooters on the side of the same screen, so the defense can’t help all the way off. Baylor used that well last year:
There are three other ways to score against Tech, but those are less schematic. Texas Tech’s defense doesn’t do as well against offensive rebounds; when they’re out of position, the whole system can collapse. But there’s not much schematically Baylor will do to crash the boards. The Bears do that anyway.
Baylor can also attack switches in screens. If Texas Tech wants to switch their big men onto Butler, then he should go to work.
Finally, I don’t think Baylor should look to try and work back toward the middle using snake dribbles. Texas Tech is too talented to get middle against much. They’re such a unique defense, I am content to not do the one thing they’re designed to stop. This is enough of a challenge that Baylor should just hope they can make floaters and threes and offensive rebound enough to get just over a point per possession. If they can do that, they have a decent shot at winning.
Texas Tech’s offense had been anemic. Then they opened Big 12 play by dropping a ridiculous 1.31 points per possession against a good Oklahoma State team.
Texas Tech’s offense averages .22 points per possession above their opponent’s defensive efficiency when Ramsey plays, and they are, on average, -.4 points per possession worse than their opponent’s average in games he doesn’t play.
The Bears will have to get in Ramsey’s face and prevent him from scoring. He doesn’t need much to make it, as he’s scoring 48% from deep on 48 attempts:
Texas Tech runs a motion offense, and they like to work out of the high post. Chris Clarke can initiate the offense, both in the half-court, and in transition. Laziness is the greatest sin against Texas Tech; Texas will probably lose by 25 to these dues. If you fail to communicate a seemingly inconsequential switch, then Texas Tech will make it a three:
The Bears need to balance how much they play off some of the Red Raider’s shooters. Kyler Edwards hasn’t shot well this year, but he hit 45% of his triples last year. And if Baylor elects to ignore men, then Texas Tech’s cutting could cripple the Bears:
Baylor might play some zone. Although the Bears have played man-to-man on more than 90% of their possessions, they might elect to slow a Texas Tech run by mixing in the zone. I think it’s more likely Baylor breaks that out on Saturday in Lawrence, but if Ramsey and Davide Moretti go on a run, Baylor might use it as a different option, like they did against Villanova.
My confidence level is predicting this game is pretty low. Texas Tech is super inconsistent. If Texas Tech and Baylor each play like they did on Saturday, then Texas Tech is going to win by double digits. That Red Raider team is the one that scares everyone.
Texas Tech played out of their minds on Saturday, and Baylor—even with their 15 point win against Texas—did not play that well on Saturday. Butler is due for a big game from beyond the arc, and the Bears are a better team.
Baylor could lose, but the Bears hit enough floaters, and Texas Tech can’t make enough threes. I’ll take Baylor 61-58.