The #4 ranked Baylor Men’s Basketball team (18-2) takes a break from conference play to visit the Alabama Crimson Tide (13-7) in the annual Big 12/SEC Challenge. The Bears represented the conference well against Auburn last year — here are three* stats that will determine whether Baylor can do so again.
Two Point Offense (and Offensive Rebounding)
The defense of Alabama’s basketball team performs similarly to the defense of Alabama’s football team...but only when Alabama plays Clemson in the National Championship. Their best stat is three point defense, and they don’t even break 100th in the country. One of their worst stats is two point defense, and Baylor is in a great position to exploit this weakness.
Alabama allows their opponents to register a 1.6 percentage point better two point shooting percentage than their opponents average in other games (298th in the country). Baylor shoots very well from inside the arc, making 56% of their shots (41st in the country).
If their shooting numbers are off this afternoon, that doesn’t necessarily spell disaster for the Bears. Baylor is an elite offensive rebounding team, collecting 36% of their missed shots (8th in the country), and Alabama is atrocious at defensive rebounding, allowing their opponents to record an offensive rebounding rate 3 percentage points better than their opponents average in other games (327th in the country).
Three Point Defense (and Defensive Rebounding)
Alabama is as good on offense as they are bad on defense. A top-10 offensive team according to Ken Pom, the Crimson Tide score over 81 points per game (13th in the country). They do so in a very interesting way — high volume and inaccurate three point shooting.
Bama makes only 31% of their three point shots (292nd in the country), which is much lower than you’d want from a team that attempts 46% of their field goals from deep (21st in the country).
How are they so efficient with this curious combination? Stellar offensive rebounding and two point shooting. Bama recovers 35% of their available offensive rebounds (16th in the country) and makes 57% of their two point shots (13th in the country).
Baylor can break this strategy doing two things: keep Alabama to their ordinarily low three point shooting percentage, and stop Alabama from getting offensive rebounds and extending possessions off of three point misses.
Baylor is a good team defending on the perimeter. They hold their opponents to a 4 percentage point lower three point shooting percentage than their opponents average in other games (41st in the country).
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean much if Alabama rebounds extraordinarily well. Baylor is decent in defensive rebounding, holding their opponents to a 3 percentage point worse offensive rebounding rate than their opponents average in other games (124th in the country). Baylor needs to step it up in this game.
When two teams have great offensive showings, the outcome is often determined by which team had the most possessions. In this game, the edge goes to Baylor.
When Baylor has the ball, they turn it over on 18% of possessions (198th in the country), which is still inexcusably high. Fortunately for the Bears, Alabama is not good at forcing turnovers. The Crimson Tide’s opponents have a 1.4 percentage point better turnover rate against Alabama than they average in other games (285th in the country).
When Alabama has the ball, they also turn it over on 18% of possessions (196th in the country), but Baylor’s defense is far from 285th in the country in forcing turnovers. The Bears force their opponents into a 6 percentage point higher turnover rate than their opponents average in other games (13th in the country).
If Baylor can dominate the turnover battle, as expected, they will force Alabama into playing a near perfect offensive and defensive game to win.
Ken Pom Prediction: Baylor 78, Alabama 74