Just three days ago Texas Tech came from down ten at half to upset the #4 Texas Longhorns on the road in Austin. The win was the first for Tech against a top-five team on the road, and it gave them a signature win to build momentum off of in this brutal Big 12 season. Now? The challenge is even tougher. Baylor comes into Lubbock as the number two team in the country with an 11-0 record, and they have looked virtually unbeatable this year. Last season Tech played a very similar Baylor squad down to the wire in both games, but this team is different, having more depth and arguably better shooting. Let’s get into the preview and take a look at just how talented these two teams are:
Baylor Bears (11-0) vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders (11-3)
Location: United Supermarkets Arena (Lubbock, Texas)
Game time: 3:00 CST
Odds: Baylor -4
Kenpom Ranking: 2nd
Three things to know:
- Baylor has one of the best backcourt trios in the nation. As good as Coleman, Ramey, and Jones were for Texas, Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, and Davion Mitchell are even better for Baylor. Butler will get a lot of the hype, and deservedly so, as he was the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year, but he does not lead the team in assists. That would be Mitchell, who averages over six per game while also shooting above 40% from three. Teague is more of an offball and secondary ball-handler threat, but he is still lethal as a scorer and is really physical for the role he plays. All three guys are positive defenders as well, with Mitchell being one of the best point of attack defenders nationally in my opinion.
- Baylor is top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They have a very effective rotation, and can really play in a variety of ways. They stole the No-Middle defense from Tech, and with Mark Vital as their defensive centerpiece, they have effectively made life in the paint miserable for any team.
- Vital and Jonathan Tchama Tchatchoua are two of the highest energy guys in the league. JTT is elite at getting rebounds and dunks, while Vital is the best glue guy in the country. Neither are floor spacers, but both will have a huge influence in determining the outcome of this game.
Three stats to watch:
- Three-point shooting. Baylor is shooting 42% from three on the year and they have six rotation guys shooting over 40% from deep. That is incredible. Being able to rotate efficiently will be very important for Tech, especially coming off a game where they allowed Texas to shoot 52% from three due to poor closeouts and miscommunications.
- Offensive rebounding. Baylor is top ten in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. Flo Thamba, JTT, and Vital are all major rebounding threats, and I would expect Tech to really have to commit to gang rebounding to keep the battle on the glass close in this one.
- Turnovers forced. Texas Tech has been really good at avoiding turning the ball over this year, but Baylor is number three nationally in forcing turnovers for a reason. Mitchell, Mayer, and Butler are all great havoc defenders, and Vital is also a threat to force offball turnovers as well. This is a game where Tech really needs to control the ball to win.
About Texas Tech:
Kenpom Ranking: 12th
Three things to know
- Mac McClung has been much more efficient lately, scoring 22 points on 14 shots versus Texas and 18 on only ten shots in the Iowa State game. Playing efficient basketball is key for all of tech’s ball handlers, but especially McClung, who can win or lose the team a game depending on how his tough shots are falling. Working him off the ball can help improve efficiency as well.
- Kevin McCullar had a brilliant game in Austin with 16 points and eight boards on near-perfect shooting. He has played more as a ball-handler lately, which can really open up spacing opportunities for Kyler Edwards and Mac McClung. Also, the more his shooting comes around, the better this team will be.
- Marcus Santos-Silva had a pretty good game in Austin, but he will have to be really disciplined in this one to avoid getting dominated on the glass by Baylor’s bigs. From a size standpoint, they are not overwhelming, but their ability to crash the glass is something Tech probably will not have to deal with in any other game. It is critical that MSS stays out of foul trouble in this one, although Tyreek Smith could be an intriguing piece to watch in this one as well.
Three stats to watch:
- Three-point shooting. Tech has only shot 33% from deep this year, but on limited volume, they have shot 37% over the last two games. Being able to knock down shots at an average rate is essential to keep up with Baylor.
- Free throws. Last season, Tech only made 50% of their free throws in the home game vs. Baylor. They would have won the game had they been able to be more efficient at the line. Tech has been the best team at the line in Big 12 play, but an off game cannot happen if Tech wants to win this one, especially considering how they get to the line a lot more frequently than Baylor.
- Assists. Having seven assists again will not cut it. Tech’s offense has picked it up as of late, but there still needs to be a lot more ball movement, especially against a team that thrives on creating on-ball turnovers.