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Game Thread: Baylor Bears at #15 Texas Tech Red Raiders

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Baylor seeks another season sweep of a Big XII rival

NCAA Basketball: Texas Tech at Baylor Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Today’s game tips off at 1pm CT on ESPN. It’s a big deal.

The last time these teams met, the Baylor Bears (16-8, 7-4) upended the Texas Tech Red Raiders (20-5, 8-4) 73-62 in a dominating performance. Tech’s defense — which was and still is the #1 defense in the nation per KenPom.com — couldn’t hold back Baylor’s three-happy offense or the offensive rebounding heroics of the Bears’ front line. Jared Butler went toe-to-toe with potential lottery pick Jarrett Culver, scoring 19 points and staving off a near double-digit comeback by the Raiders. Back in January, Makai Mason and King McClure made big contributions with their outside scoring. That won’t be the case today.

McClure is still out with a knee injury, and Mason is shaking off the rust from his toe injury after sitting against Kansas State and shooting poorly (in a win) against Oklahoma earlier this week. If Baylor has any hope of winning a tough road game today, Mason will have to be outstanding. Tech still has far and away the best defense in the country this season. That wasn’t a problem for the Bears last go ‘round thanks to an 11-29 night from deep. With McClure on the bench, the trio of Mason, Butler, and Devonte Bandoo will all need to shoot the ball well.

That’s a tough ask on the road. Big Twelve teams have won 61% of their home games this season. Tech themselves have only lost a single home game all season. Baylor has shot 34.7% from three on the road this season, which is actually above their season average of 33.8%. They needed a 38% night to win in Waco. Say Baylor shoots right around their season road average and goes 9-27 from three. Will that be enough?

Jarrett Culver, averaging 17 and 6 this season, will likely come into this game with some fire. This is Tech’s first home game in over a week, and he will be looking to avenge the loss in Waco. As the KenPom choice for Big XII Player of the Year, Culver will probably try to seize the game early on the offensive end and by securing the defensive glass. He’ll be in pitched combat with Mark Vital and Freddie Gillespie all game, but expect him to set the tone early. Baylor’s best chance to win involves hitting outside looks and collecting offensive rebounds. If Culver and his crew are able to keep Baylor off the glass, things will be increasingly tough for the Bears.

The line for today’s game is Texas Tech -7.5. I would take Baylor to cover but Tech to win outright. Call it 72-65 in favor of the Raiders. Baylor has a chance to steal this one, though. A win in Lubbock today would just about cement the Bears’ place in the NCAA Tournament field.

Sic’em Bears!