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Baylor-Texas: Three Keys, How to Watch and Prediction

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Baylor looks to go undefeated through the first half of Big 12 play

NCAA Basketball: Baylor at Texas Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 Baylor (16-0, 8-0) takes on No. 6 Texas (11-3, 5-2) at 6:00 tonight in Austin. The game airs on ESPN.

Baylor is a 5.5 point favorite on most books, as of publishing. KenPom likes Baylor by five, and he gives the Bears a 68% chance to win.

Given I have some other responsibilities this week (I’m arguing in front of the Kansas Supreme Court on Wednesday and Thursday; hopefully that goes okay!), this game is getting a shorter preview than it deserves. But I should have some player profiles and interviews in the next couple weeks to make up for having fewer words than this game warrants.

Three Keys:

1) Aggressively force turnovers- Texas is giant. They’ll have all their scholarship players for this one after COVID-19 protocols left them down three key rotation pieces in their loss to Oklahoma. They have two likely first round draft picks in Kai Jones and Greg Brown that will play a ton. They also have Jericho Sims; he feels like he’s been in school forever.

The Bears need to have more possessions than Texas in this game. The Longhorns will put a ton of pressure on Baylor when they get the ball near the hoop because of the size disadvantage. This is one opponent that Baylor should really be okay surrendering a few easy buckets to get the boost from more turnovers.

2) Make Texas’ frontcourt shooters- Teams love to fly by Brown, Jones and Jones. While Andrew Jones might be a better shooter than his percentage this year (before going 0-for-7 against OU, he shot at least 50% from deep in their three previous games), the Longhorns are much better near the hoop. Better to provide a soft contest than let any of those men get shots near the rim.

3) Don’t work to be too perfect inside- Baylor got a little too focused shooting inside against Auburn. The Bears are No. 1 nationally in 3-point percentage. They should fire those shots when open. The uncertainty of whether Baylor will pump fake and drive opens up some triples. Though sometimes those shots are just open. You need to get cute when you lack substance. The Bears have a great ability to just make the original shot. Texas is going to be difficult to score against inside—they rank 18th in 2-point defense—and their frontline is more imposing to shoot over than Auburn’s. If someone is open from three, just take the early shot, and give yourself a chance to offensive rebound if it misses.

Prediction:

This is a new challenge for Baylor because of Texas’ size. If there’s one big question for Baylor (it’s not that ridiculous anonymous quote in the Seth Davis article about not running great offense), it’s how they’ll deal with a team that has good guards and a couple of skilled bigger guys. Brown isn’t going to play like Drew Timme or Jeremiah Robinson-Earl—two big men that the Bears could see in the final two games of the season. But the Longhorns are uniquely suited and will be a real challenge for the Bears.

Matt Coleman is also a warrior and has made clutch shots. Baylor has their own guys that can win a close game, but Coleman seems to make ridiculous shots when it’s close.

This is probably the most likely loss on Baylor’s schedule. But the most likely loss still favors the Bears. The Baylor guards will make dribble penetration difficult for the Longhorns, and barring a really good day from deep, Baylor is just a bit better than Texas. I’ll say Macio Teague has a nice night, and Adam Flagler hits a few big shots. I’ll take Baylor 68-64.