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Baylor at Oklahoma: Preview and Prediction

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Baylor looks to win more Big 12 games in a row than any team ever

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma at Baylor Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1 Baylor (23-1, 12-0) takes on Oklahoma (16-9, 6-6) at 8:00 tonight in Norman. The game airs on ESPN2.

Baylor is a 64% favorite on KenPom. He likes Baylor by four. Vegas favors Baylor by 3.5 points.

The Bears won the first game 61-57. Oklahoma seemed buried, but Austin Reaves took a three to take the lead with nine seconds. He missed.

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

Offense:

Baylor scored an adjusted .98 points per possession in the first game. They were successful on offense in a few ways.

First, Tristan Clark worked the post. Baylor’s big men can give OU problems. Brady Manek is an exceptional offensive player, but he’s not strong enough to deal with Tristan Clark. He finished with six points on four shots. Freddie Gillespie added 12 points too.

Second, Baylor did a nice job against Oklahoma’s hard hedging. They’ll have the big man come out to slow drives. But that defense leaves teams vulnerable. Sometimes defenders crash into each other. And sometimes the guard can blow by for a score. Davion Mitchell did a nice job beating Oklahoma’s hard hedges, finishing 3-of-7 from three:

The Sooners also like to stunt. That means they’ll have the nearest man lunge at the ball handler on drives. That defense can make driving much tougher, but it opens up 3-point attempts. Baylor went just 6-of-26 against OU, but they had plenty of good looks:

Mark Vital will have space to work. Oklahoma will ignore any non-shooter. In their last game against Kansas, they completely ignored Marcus Garrett. Unfortunately for them, he went 6-of-9 from three. Vital won’t do that, but he’ll have plenty of space to set screens and drive to the hoop:

Jared Butler had a terrible game. He started 1-of-11 from the field. He missed some quality layups and couldn’t make a jumper. Oklahoma tried to make life difficult, but nobody makes life that difficult for him. He should be able to have a much better game. So even if Clark or Mitchell aren’t quite as effective, Butler should play substantially better to make up for any regression from that duo.

Defense:

Oklahoma scored .92 points per possession. Oklahoma shot a respectable 9-of-25 from three, and that explained most of Baylor’s problems.

The Bears had a stretch around the Oklahoma game where some teams were a little more effective driving middle. Baylor’s defense is designed to take away middle drives, so if a team gets middle, it presents problems for them. They’ve done a much better job lately, but if Oklahoma can drive middle, it will open up 3-point shots:

Baylor’s No. 1 problem was not finding Manek. He’s shooting 45% from three in Big 12 play on a ton of attempts. The Bears messed up switches with him—they need to switch everything and worry about any problems in the post later—and also didn’t find him in transition. Do that (no easy task) and barring a ridiculous shooting day from someone else, Baylor should be fine:

Maybe this is the game where Reaves gets going from three. He had a terrible first 30 minutes in Waco. He’s been awful from three this season, hitting just 26% of his 130 attempts. But he made 43% of his threes at Wichita State two years ago. He probably thinks he can still be that dude. He sure needs to prove that:

Oklahoma can do a few other things. Jamal Bieniemy has scored in double figures in the last four games. Kristian Doolittle, another of Oklahoma’s big men, has 74 points in his last three games. Baylor hasn’t been worked by big men on the inside since the second game of the season against Washington, so I don’t expect him to drop 30. But he’s talented and might be good enough to break that streak.

Prediction:

Oklahoma is an NCAA Tournament team. A team that good, and at home, is capable of beating the country’s best team.

Capability does not mean it’s likely though. Baylor is better than Oklahoma. And even with Oklahoma making a run late in Waco, Baylor is a problem for Oklahoma. The Sooners can’t rely on Baylor’s best player starting 1-of-11 from the field again.

Butler has a better game, and Baylor doesn’t look ahead to Kansas. I’ll take Baylor 70-64.