With only seven games left in the regular season, #10 Baylor Men’s Basketball (20-4) finally plays
pre-season #5 team in the country #20 Texas Longhorns (18-6).
The Longhorns are a very up and down team. They’ve beaten the top team in the conference (Kansas) but lost to some of the worst teams (Iowa State, Kansas State). Somehow, they are tied for third in the Big 12, only one game behind Baylor.
Here are three stats that will determine whether Baylor can maintain their separation in the standings.
Texas is a great defensive team, at least statistically. They lead in the nation with an opponent’s points-per-game of 55.8, and Ken Pom rates them as the ninth best team in defensive efficiency.
Their efficiency comes in an interesting way. Texas is decent, but not elite, in contesting shots. Their opponents shoot 4 percentage points worse from two (62nd in the country) and 2.7 percentage points worse from three (79th in the country) than their opponents average in other games.
Texas’ best defensive stats are their sloth-like pace of play (their offensive possession length is 307th in the country, and their defensive possession length is 342nd in the country, per Ken Pom), opponent’s free throw percentage (-6.8 ppt, 7th in the country), and turnover rate (+4.6 ppt, 20th in the country).
Baylor isn’t suited for an incredibly up-tempo game; their average offensive pace is only 98th in the country. They also don’t get to the free throw line enough for free throw percentage to be a bigger factor; their free throw rate is a lowly 302nd in the country.
So if Baylor is going to overcome one of Texas’ biggest strengths, they need to do a good job protecting the ball. For the season, the Bears have a turnover rate of 18% (215th in the country). This will be a difficult test.
Fortunately, if Baylor does turn the ball over a lot, they are in a good position to force Texas to do the same. Texas’ offense has a turnover rate of 17% (132nd in the country), and Baylor’s defense forces its opponents into a 5.3 percentage point higher turnover rate than its opponents average in other games (14th in the country).
To beat a good defensive team, you typically need to shoot the ball very well. Baylor has the capability to shoot the ball well — they make 54% of their two point attempts (54th in the country) and 36% of their three point attempts (77th in the country) — but they don’t necessarily need to to beat Texas.
Baylor is an elite offensive rebounding team, collecting 36% of all offensive rebound opportunities (4th in the country). Texas is a mediocre defensive rebounding team, and they allow their opponent to rebound about as well as their opponents typically do throughout the season (238th in the country).
Texas is a good team on offense, but they don’t do anything particularly great. The Longhorns make an above average 53% of their two point attempts (84th in the country). They attack the perimeter less frequently than the average team with 37% of their attempts coming from deep (195th in the country), and they only make 32% of their threes (269th in the country). Their free throw rate is an average 31% (168th in the country), and their offensive rebounding rate is an above average 31% (69th in the country).
Baylor is solid defending against the three; they hold their opponents to a 3.6 percentage point worse three point shooting percentage than their opponents average in other games (53rd in the country).
Baylor is less successful defending against the two. For the season, their opponents have a two point shooting percentage nearly equal to their shooting percentage in other games (237th in the country). But as of late, Baylor’s defense has struggled mightily inside. Three of their previous four opponents made over 64% from two, and two of those four made over 71%!
It will be difficult for Baylor to beat Texas if they shoot 64% from two; however, if the Bears can play solid interior defense, I don’t think Texas has enough firepower to win in other ways.
Ken Pom Prediction: Baylor 68, Texas 62