Preview & Prediction: By Fairway Jay
A Big 12 battle in Waco Tuesday night as #11Texas (14-4, 3-1) takes on Baylor (15-4, 3-2). The Bears have emerged as a legitimate conference contender the past two seasons and they are a small home favorite over Texas; a team that Baylor has lost to 22 consecutive times.
The gap has closed considerably in recent seasons, and Texas coach Rich Barnes has acknowledged the improved recruiting, talent and team togetherness at Baylor. Texas’ last two trips to Waco were closely contested games with the Longhorns winning 68-67 and 82-77 last year. Nine players scored double figures in last year’s contest, and all nine are back in action again for this year’s war in Waco which should provide plenty of scoring.
Baylor enters off a 95-76 loss to Oklahoma; a game in which they trailed by 27 points at halftime and ultimately lost for the 29th straight time to the Sooners. The Bears prefer to push the pace and are a very efficient offensive team with five double-digit scorers and the Big 12’s top scoring 3-point team. Baylor is averaging over 80ppg in Big 12 play and 85ppg at home this season while allowing 79ppg and over 46% shooting by Big 12 opponents. Senior forward Kevin Rogers provides the Bears with an inside presence and is no. 3 in conference rebounding, but Baylor is team that can dominate you with their quickness and athletic guards. Four perimeter players average double digits led by Curtis Jerrells (17ppg) and LaceDarius Dunn (16ppg), the leagues top 3-point scorer. Henry Dugat and Tweety Carter both average over 10ppg and will look to pressure Texas’ top guard A.J. Abrams, who is struggling with his shot and scoring just 12ppg on under 30% shooting his last eight games. Abrams averages over 19ppg for Texas this season, but he’s part of a league-worst 3-point shooting team as Texas is hitting under 27% from the arch in conference play. Easier scoring opportunities are expected against Baylor though, and with a pair of big bodies in the paint with Connor Atchley (top shot blocker in Big 12) and Dexter Pittman, Texas should have a solid edge on the inside and create some easy baskets.
The Longhorns have an all-league performer in Damion James, who has really benefited from Texas’ recent change to more motion offense. James has poured in 46 points his last two games including a season high 28 points last time out against Texas A&M. And while Texas lost to Oklahoma 78-63, the Longhorns shot the ball poorly (33%) against a better Oklahoma defense but had nearly 70 possessions and should surpass that and score more easily with Baylor pushing the pace.
These teams have contrasting styles, strengths and weaknesses. The Baylor guards should push the pace and ball often against the better Texas defenders and the Longhorns will welcome a chance to run and play along. I anticipate another high scoring game and for the Baylor Bears to have a real shot to finally break through against ‘big brother’ from Austin.
Winner: Baylor Margin 2-6 points
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About Fairway Jay
Previews & Predictions
Jay Ginsbach, also known as "Fairway Jay’"joins the CHN team and staff this season from Sportsmemo.com. He’ll provide his insight and expertise covering the college basketball scene with periodic thoughts from a Las Vegas perspective.