The road has not been kind to the Baylor Bears this past week. A double-digit loss on the road to Iowa State can be forgiven, but one to Texas Tech is a little harder to swallow. The Bears come back to Waco looking to change their fortune and get a good win against a much improved Oklahoma squad, in its third year under Lon Kruger.
|Date||Jan. 18, 2014| 1:00 p.m. CT|
|Radio||ESPN Central Texas|
|Online Audio||Listen Online|
For the second conference game in a row, the Bears will be facing off against an undersized team in the post, with good size on the perimeter. They really run a 4-guard lineup, though Cameron Clark has excellent size at 6-foot-7 for a guard/wing player. He primarily plays the power forward position though for Lon Kruger. Spangler is their primary post player, though and leads the team in rebounds with over 9 per game and block at just over 1. 1.
Their three guards though are pretty interchangeable in the offense. Buddy Hield has moved off the ball after being their primary point guard for most of last year, and is now logging most of his minutes at the small forward position. He will also play the shooting guard role, but he is not getting much time at the point guard spot. Those duties are left to Jordan Woodard and Isaiah Cousins. Woodard leads the team in assists at just over 4 per game, and is really their main distributor.
But the main man offensively for the Sooners is Cameron Clark, who has improved every single year in Norman, and now as a senior, is one of the best players in the Big 12. He is a high usage player for Oklahoma, taking 29.7% of the shots for OU. He is a tremendous shooter, and has really grown the rest of his game to take advantage of that. He has a nice first step and has become much more effective closer to the basket.
The Sooners though will get scoring from a lot of places, as they have 5 players in double figures. Every starter averages at least 10 points per game, and plays 28 minutes or more. This is a team that depends on its starters with little involvement from their bench. They have just a 3-4 person bench depending on fouls, led by guards Jalen Hornbeak and Frank Booker as well as post Tyler Neal. With all of their starters playing more than 70% of available minutes though, there is not a lot of dependence on the OU bench.
The Bears and Sooners are both ranked in the Top 25, though with another loss, OU will more than likely fall out of the AP poll. The Sooners are 13-4 on the year, but have lost three of their last five games including 2 home losses to Kansas and Louisiana Tech. The Sooners have thrived on a less than stellar non-conference schedule, with their best win of the season coming against 92nd ranked Mercer before Big 12 play hit. They do have wins over Texas on the road and a big upset over Iowa State at home since then though. While Baylor has a better record against a more difficult schedule, the Sooners are the best team to come to Waco all year. All of the other bigger games on the Bears schedule has been on a neutral court (Colorado, Dayton, Kentucky, Syracuse) or on the road (Iowa State).
The Bears again have the advantage in three of the four areas, with turnovers being their only downside. While the Sooners edge on turnovers is large, Baylor has a dominating advantage when it comes to offensive rebounding. Strangely, in the Bears worst loss of the year, they only had 5 turnovers against Texas Tech.
|Points Per Possession||1.19||7||1.05||226|
|Effective FG %||54.8%||31||49.8%||216|
|Points Per Possession||1.02||146||1.14||31|
|Effective FG %||46.6%||91||51.8||99|
It is shocking how similar Texas Tech and Oklahoma are defensively. They give up the same points per possession, the same effective field goal %, and are within 1 tenth of a point of each other according to KenPom's defensive efficiency rating. They are a pretty average defense, mainly due to their lack of height and poor rebounding ability. They also don't force a ton of turnovers either. In fact, this is just an average defense in about every metric, not good or bad in anything.
The big difference between the Sooners and Red Raiders though is their offense. The Sooners have a very good offense while the Red Raiders have struggled for most of the year. Oklahoma has the 8th most efficient offense in the nation, due to their low turnover rate and good 3-point shooting. They are solid at rebounding and about average inside of the 3-point arc, but they take good shots and their players that can shoot from deep shoot it often. They have the 66th most 3-point attempts in the nation, and shoot it at the 58th best rate.
These are two very good offenses, with multi deep threats that can score from all around the court. While the Bears get a big assist from their offensive rebounding, the Sooners get theirs from taking care of the ball. Oklahoma also plays at an incredibly high tempo, getting the 8th most possessions per game at 73.7. Baylor is a much slower team, ranking as the 33rd slowest team in the nation with just 64.1 possessions.
Keys to the Game
1. Win the Tempo game – These two teams want to play at incredibly different paces. Oklahoma pushes the ball on defensive rebounds and made shots. They want to get the opposing team running with them, but not in the traditional way. OU does not force a lot of turnovers, so they have to push whenever they see even the slightest window of opportunity. Baylor has to make sure to be sound in their transition defense and get back before Oklahoma can get off a quick shot. If the Bears can limit the speed of this game, and make it a slower affair that they prefer, they have a good chance of winning at home.
2. Take away the 3-point shot – The Sooners have some tremendous 3-point shooters, and while they have none that are as lethal as Brady Heslip has been this year, they have more players that can hit that shot. Baylor has just 3 players with more than 10 shots made from behind the arc, while Oklahoma has 6 of them. Buddy Hield is their main man, taking 101 shots and making 38 of them. But Cameron Clark might be their best shooter, especially from his position as a power forward. Frank Booker is a good shooter off the bench and another player to watch.
Simply put, the Bears cannot let the Sooners get easy shots from behind the arc. They have to challenge hard outside and make the OU shooters put the ball on the floor. Baylor also has to be much more sound in their transition defense than they have shown this year and get back to guard quickly, as OU will push the ball just to get another 3-point shot or a dunk.
3. Get OU to go to their bench – The Sooners are not a very deep team. They have just one dependable post player on their bench and two wing players that they can go to. If the Bears can get Cameron Clark or Ryan Spangler into foul trouble, that takes away a big component of what the Sooners want to do. Clark is the key to their offense, as his ability to stretch the floor allows more room for Spangler to operate in the low post, and also allows more lanes for the guards to penetrate.
Attacking Clark on the low block has to be a focus for all of the Baylor post players, but especially Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin, who have been pretty good this year at drawing fouls. Both rank in the Top 500 at fouls drawn per 40 minutes, with Jefferson being 264th and Austin at 489th. To have a strength of the Bears offense being on the key to the Sooners has to be exploited and taken advantage of.
KenPom.com – Baylor wins 84-78 (70% chance for win)
Massey.com – Baylor wins 83-80 (62% chance for win)
RealTime RPI – Baylor wins 82-71
Tim Watkins BearsIllustrated.com Writer– Baylor wins 76-72
This is a game that scares me. Looking at how the Bears performed Wednesday night in Lubbock put a big damper on things. The Sooners are a much better version of the Red Raiders and they do a lot of the same things, though Tech attacks more inside than outside offensively. Baylor cannot get into a track meet with the Sooners and expect to win. Their transition defense has been an issue all year and that is what the Sooners want to do. But for some reason, I expect the Bears to work the ball inside much better and get the OU posts into foul trouble, taking away Cameron Clark for long stretches of the game. Without Clark, the Sooners are not nearly as difficult to defend. Baylor hangs on for a much needed win against a good Oklahoma squad.