After a lackluster Monday night card, we’ve got several quality games on Tuesday night. The one in the spotlight for us in this preview is the matchup in the Big 12 in Game 653/654 between the Baylor Bears and the Texas Tech Red Raiders. The team from Lubbock is favored by three with a total of 129.
The only blemish for Scott Drew’s team is a three-point loss in Alaska against the Washington Huskies. The Bears were just 15-of-44 from inside the arc in that loss and actually had their worst offensive rebounding percentage of the season. That was against a team that plays a zone. It was just an all-around outlier performance.
That is one of just two outliers for Baylor that stand out. They’ve had ups and downs offensively, as most teams have, but that was the worst effort of the season with .843 points per possession. Outside of that weird setting in Alaska, the Bears have one other clear outlier. It was a game that they won, but Villanova scored 1.252 PPP in the game on November 24. Aside from that game, Baylor has allowed more than .9 PPP just once. It was, oddly enough, against Coastal Carolina.
So, long story short, Baylor’s defense has been excellent and the Bears are among the top offensive rebounding teams in the country. That presents some challenges for Chris Beard’s team. While the Red Raiders are very solid on the defensive glass, they have plenty of problems offensively. Jarrett Culver was the heartbeat of this team offensively last season. With Culver gone, the Red Raiders have had to rely on different sources. Davide Moretti was the primary holdover from last year’s team. Chris Clarke and TJ Holyfield were transfers that sat out last season. Freshmen Jahmi’us Ramsey and Terrence Shannon Jr. have done their part, but Texas Tech has been inconsistent on offense.
In particular, the Red Raiders have struggled when stepping up in class. Their most notable win came against Louisville on a neutral on December 10 and was actually something of a shock at the time because they had lost three straight to Iowa, Creighton, and DePaul before that. Opening conference play with a 35-point win over Oklahoma State was the second-most impressive win of the season.
We know that Beard can coach. With a lot of new pieces and parts, it isn’t a big surprise that it is taking some time to gel. Ramsey and Shannon are two of the three highest-rated recruits in Beard’s time in Lubbock, so it isn’t a big surprise that they are getting a lot of run, particularly because the prize of the 2019 class, Khavon Moore, transferred to Clemson. Did we see a premier example of Tech’s upside in that blowout win over Okie State? Was that a sign of things to come? Or is that just Oklahoma State? After all, they scored .607 PPP against West Virginia on Monday night in a 55-41 loss.
Let’s talk for a second about this spot for Baylor. The Bears played that game in Alaska. They played in Conway, South Carolina for a tournament earlier in the season. The Bears did play Coastal Carolina there. That is the ONLY true road game of the season for Baylor and it came in a tournament near Myrtle Beach. It goes without saying that playing a true road game in conference play is not easy. Baylor is not battle-tested on the road. That has to be a concern for Scott Drew going into this game. On the bright side, road trips to Lubbock and Lawrence are a good way to dive into the pool headfirst.
To this point, Baylor is a really good team and their trend line definitely looks better than Texas Tech’s for the season. The Bears are 21st in adjusted offensive efficiency per Bart Torvik and 20th in adjusted defensive efficiency. It isn’t that the Bears shoot overly well, but they take outstanding care of the basketball and pick up extra possessions on the offensive glass. They rank 62nd in TO% on offense at 17.4% and seventh in ORB% at 37.4%. They are only shooting 47.9% from 2, but 36% from 3.
Opponents have an eFG% of just 43% against Baylor. They also rank 28th in the nation in TO% on defense. Of course, Baylor’s strength of schedule ranks 197th according to Ken Pom. On the other hand, Texas Tech has played the 277th-ranked schedule and really hasn’t been as impressive as you would like. Of course the Red Raiders mirror the Bears in a lot of defensive metrics and they’ve been excellent on the defensive glass.
Texas Tech is seventh nationally with an assist rate of 65.8% on their made field goals. Baylor is 105th. Will that be the difference in the game? Creating shots is really hard against Texas Tech’s defense. Baylor may have to share the ball a little bit more in this matchup. That puts the onus on leader Jared Butler and fellow assist man Davion Mitchell.
I have to look at Texas Tech in this one. The Red Raiders are shooting 76.2% from the free throw line and this game is sitting right there in that fouling range if Beard’s team has the lead. Texas Tech will be one of the better defensive rebounding teams that Baylor has faced, which takes away a key element of their offense. I would expect the three-point numbers to sag off a bit with some upcoming road games. Tech is also one of the better defenses at forcing turnovers that Baylor has faced.
Pick: Texas Tech -3