NCAA Tuesday Night Basketball: Baylor/Texas Preview

by Big Al Staff

A college basketball doubleheader on ESPN tips off at 7 PM ET with a Big 12 battle between two of the top six teams in the nation.

Baylor ranks second in the Associated Press poll with a 16-0 record. The Bears defeated Auburn, 84-72, as a 14-point favorite in their Big 12/SEC Challenge matchup on Saturday. Head coach Scott Drew got key contributions from his bench in the victory, with Adam Flagler leading the way with 19 points and Mathew Mayer adding 13 points in just 15 minutes of play. Jared Butler contributed 16 points with five assists. Butler is the team’s leading scorer with a 16.0 points-per-game average.

Butler is amongst six players that score at least 8.2 points-per-game for the Bears. Head coach Scott Drew has a deep rotation with nine players averaging at least 13 minutes per game. Drew had six players return from the rotation that finished 26-4 last year.

Baylor has high-profile victories against Illinois, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma, and the win against the surging Tigers over the weekend.

Baylor has the third-best offense in adjusted offensive efficiency according to the numbers at kenpom. They lead the nation with a 43.4% shooting percentage from 3-point land. The Bears rank fourth by rebounding 38.2% of their missed shots. Drew’s team is also the third-best in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They force turnovers in 26.0% of their opponent’s possessions, ranking fifth.

If there was a weakness to this team, it might start with their defensive rebounding. Baylor allows their opponents to rebound 29.9% of their missed shots, 241st in the nation. The Bears do not get as many freebies on the charity stripe given a free throw rate that is 264th.

Texas takes the court for the first time since January 26th, when they were upset at home against Oklahoma as a 3.5-point favorite, 80-79. The Longhorns’ showdown with Kentucky on Saturday in their Big 12/SEC Challenge contest got canceled due to the Wildcats' inability to field a team given COVID issues.

Head coach Shaka Smart’s team was not going to be at full strength in that game against John Calipari’s group. Starters Courtney Ramey and Jericho Sims were unavailable due to COVID protocols. Smart was also in quarantine with COVID symptoms and not going to be on the sidelines for that non-conference game. All three individuals expect to be on the court tonight.

The Longhorns have lost two of their last three games to fall to 11-3 this season. They rank sixth in the AP poll. Texas has several impressive victories against Indiana and North Carolina en route to winning the Maui Invitational while adding wins against Oklahoma State, Kansas, and West Virginia. Their three losses to Villanova, Texas Tech, and the Sooners were all at home to nationally-ranked teams by a combined seven points.

Smart’s job was in jeopardy last season. The team hit a low point in an 81-52 loss at Iowa State. Yet Smart rallied his team to win five of their last six games to finish with a 19-12 record in a season interrupted to COVID. Texas was on the bubble to make the NCAA Tournament. Smart's team has won 16 of their last 20 games since that drubbing to the Cyclones.

The Longhorns returned twelve players, including all five starters from last year. Smart added a likely one-and-done freshman in Greg Brown, who is contributing 11.8 points-per-game and 8.0 rebounds-per-game. Texas has five players scoring at least 9.0 points-per-game, led by Andrew Jones with a 14.3 points-per-game average.

Texas ranks 18th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. On defense, the Longhorns are fourteenth in adjusted defensive efficiency fueled by their half-court defense as they hold their opponents to a 43.8% effective field goal percentage, eighth-best in the country.

BookMaker lists Baylor as a 5-point road favorite with the total set at 144.5.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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