Monday night brings us the calm before the storm in the college basketball world. The first conference tournaments start on Tuesday, so we can officially say that the college basketball postseason is underway on March 3. Before we get to that point, we have the Monday March 2 card to contend with. It is a limited slate of games, with only two major conference games, a battle in the Big Sky, and then a whole lot of SWAC and MEAC.
Our focus will be down in Waco, Texas, where the Baylor Bears host the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Overnight lines showed the home team favored by 7.5 at Bookmaker Sportsbook with a total of 129.5. The side has stayed the same this morning, but the total has crept up to 130.5.
Baylor is still holding strong to a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but the Bears have lost two of their last three and Scott Drew needs to get this thing turned around. The pressure of being a top dog in a conference like the Big 12 is a lot for anybody to live up to, but this Baylor squad seems to be starting to crack. Kansas getting revenge for a home loss at Phog Allen Fieldhouse is one thing. Losing to TCU is another.
TCU isn’t a bad team, but is on the lower end of the spectrum in the conference. The Bears beat TCU by 18 at home in the first meeting and then lost on the road in the second one. Let’s see if Baylor can get back on track against a very solid Texas Tech team.
The Red Raiders have had plenty of ups and downs this season and they are experiencing one of those downs right now. Back-to-back losses to Oklahoma and Texas are not a good look for Chris Beard’s team. As a general rule, the teams with the best coaches tend to get better as the season goes along and especially start to round into form at this time of the season. Those two losses for Texas Tech suggested anything but. The Red Raiders are firmly in the tournament, but could be a second-game exit if they draw into an 8 or 9 seed.
The first meeting between these two teams this season was a slog. The game was played to 62 possessions and Baylor won 57-52 in Lubbock. It probably doesn’t bode well for Texas Tech that Baylor was 22-of-51 from the floor and still managed to win the game. In true Baylor fashion, the Bears had 20 offensive rebounds. It was a rare game in which Baylor turned the ball over 20 times. Texas Tech is one of the best in the nation at taking the ball away and the Bears fell victim to it. Baylor only had six assists against 20 turnovers.
Again, however, Baylor won that one on the road. Now the Bears are favored by 7.5 at home. Why should this one go any differently? Why should Baylor not have a better day taking care of the basketball? Is Texas Tech going to be able to maximize its offensive possessions to come away with the upset win or at least a cover?
The crazy thing about it is that Texas Tech’s offense isn’t that bad. The Red Raiders are 50th in 3P% on the season and 116th in 2P%. Relative to their peers in the conference, Texas Tech is first in 3P% in Big 12 play and second in 2P%. They are first in eFG% on offense and first in defending the three-point line. So why is Texas Tech just 9-7 in conference play?
Luck has played something of a role. Texas Tech has a few close losses. The biggest thing is simply that when the Red Raiders are bad, they are really, really bad. They have had four games with less than .84 points per possession and have lost all four of them. They’ve allowed over a point per possession five times and are 1-4 in those games. They can’t find ways to win on their worst nights and this is a tough conference when you can’t steal a game from time to time.
Baylor fits the profile of a title-winning team. The Bears are 13th in adjusted offensive efficiency and third in adjusted defensive efficiency. In conference play, Baylor is second in ADJOE and first in ADJOE among the Big 12 teams. This is a team that won 23 straight games and we don’t want to dismiss that because of a pretty good performance in a losing effort against a great Kansas team and a little bit of a tricky spot in Fort Worth against TCU.
The biggest concern about this game to me is actually Texas Tech and their recent efforts. Losses to Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and a lackluster Texas team are concerning, particularly with the subpar defensive efforts. We aren’t used to seeing those from Beard’s teams. The pace of this game makes it hard for either side to get margin, but the total going up on the game would suggest to me that Baylor is the right side. Texas Tech has had some dynamic offensive performances, but more often than not, this is a team that would like games in the 120s, where the line originally was.
With the context clues on the over, I’ll lay what looks like a big number with Baylor.
Pick: Baylor -7.5