Baylor vs. Oklahoma Preview

The Bears face another must win game as they travel north to Norman Oklahoma looking for revenge and the start of a season-saving run.

It is getting pretty repetitive in Waco these days for the men's basketball team and Coach Scott Drew. They beat the teams that are in the bottom half of the league, and they struggle to stay with the teams ahead of them. This is the definition of an average team, especially in 2013. Against teams in 7th through 10th place in the Big 12 (West Virginia, Texas, Texas Tech, TCU), they are a perfect 6-0. Against teams first through 5th they are a combined 1-6. To say that the Bears are the median point in the Big 12 would be perfectly accurate.

With the Bears losing two in a row and five of their last seven games, this is a team that is truly struggling to find itself. They can only hope the road and top competition will allow them to figure out what is missing and start winning, as that is all they have left this year. Five games, with three of them on the road and then two home games against two of the top three teams in the Big 12 is a very difficult schedule. They start this stretch going up to Norman, Oklahoma to face off against the Oklahoma Sooners.

2012-2013

Baylor

Oklahoma

Sagarin

28

38

KenPom

41

47

Massey

61

42

TeamRanking.com

58

30

RPI (ESPN)

60

18

BPI (ESPN)

42

38

AP Poll

NA

NA

Coaches Poll

NA

38

The Sooners are still led by Romero Osby and Steven Pledger with Amath M'Baye being a very capable 3rd scorer as well. They are a balanced team on offense and defense, and are more solid than spectacular on either end of the court. They take care of the ball and they are excellent at getting blocks in the interior. They have good depth in the post, featuring players that can step out and hit shots from the mid-range with Osby, M'Baye and Fitzgerald all being roughly the same style of player (though at different level s of effectiveness).

Pledger is their one really good shooter from the perimeter, but he is still quite a bit below where was at last year shooting the ball. In the January game, the Bears opened with Brady Heslip on him, something that I fully hope does not happen again.

What happened last time?

The Sooners dominated in the mid-range game and shot 52.7% from the field and got out to a 17 point lead before a furious Baylor rally fell short and the Bears lost on their home-court 74-71. The Bears dominated in the paint with their scoring and their rebounding, but the mid-range attack of Arnath M'Baye, Romero Osby and Andrew Fitzgerald proved too much for the Bears.

Keys to the Game

-Make them take 3-pointers – The Sooners are a bad 3-point shooting team, making fewer than 33% of their shots from behind the arc on the season. In the earlier matchup, the Bears took away those shots aggressively and let them have numerous open jumpers in the 10-18 foot range. The Sooners completed over 60% of their shots from within the 3-point arc. The Bears have to challenge shooters inside, and in the mid-range and make OU shoot the ball in places they are not as comfortable or as successful.

The past two games, the Bears changed how they played teams that attacked them the way OU did in their first game, by switching on the vast majority of ball screens. That strategy has been absolutely dreadful for the Bears. They have to figure out a way to challenge teams to make more contested and longer shots against them. I expect a little more zone Saturday night, as Drew has usually done these types of changes in do-or-die situations.

-Will the real Isaiah Austin please stand up? – Ever since the Sooners left Waco back in late-January, Isaiah Austin's game has taken a turn for the worse. Let's take a look at what Austin did before February 1st and after in Big 12 play:

Games

Points

Shooting %

Shots

3-point %

Rebounds

Blocks

Before Feb 1st

7

15.29

47.78%

12.9

41.17%

10.57

1.71

After Feb 1st

7

9.17

34.43%

10.2

23.81%

8.5

1.83

DIFFERENCE

-6.12

-0.1335

-2.7

-0.1736

-2.07

0.12

Austin has taken a down-turn in every category except for blocks. He is also not turning the ball over as much and is getting fewer fouls called on him. He is scoring 6 points less per game, getting 2 less rebounds, and shooting the ball 13.35% worse from the field and 17.36% worse from behind the 3-point arc. He has gone from a candidate to be Freshman of the year to an also-ran in that race. The Bears have to have Isaiah Austin from the first half of the Big 12 race back, or their season will fall short of all expectations.

-Beat them on the glass – Despite the Bears shooting only 37.3% against OU (15.4% worse than what OU shot), they had a chance to tie that game and send it into overtime. Why? Because of their incredible work on the offensive glass! The Bears got 24 offensive rebounds, including 11 from the aforementioned Isaiah Austin. They outscored the Sooners 28-10 in the paint, and 19-4 in second chance points. They got up 20 more shots than the Sooners. Since that outburst, the Bears have only averaged 9.83 offensive rebounds per game and have allowed 12.5 offensive rebounds per game. Baylor has to do a much better job on the glass.

Predictions

KenPom – Bears lose 71-68 (62% chance of happening)

Massey – Bears lose 73-68 (67% chance of happening)

BearsIllustrated – Bears win 76-74

Call it a Hail Mary for me, but I think the Bears go up to Norman and win. You can call me crazy all you want, but I think the Sooners will struggle to hit the bevy of mid-range jumpers that they did last time. They are also missing their starting point guard, Buddy Hield, a very important player for them. Getting the majority of his minutes (but not starting) is Sam Grooms a junior guard who has played quite well the past two games, making 13 of 19 shots and averaging 15 points per game.

However, where they will miss Hield the most is on defense, as he brought a little more height to the point guard position, something that Pierre Jackson can struggle with. I expect the Bears to answer their critics and get a much needed win to possibly save their tournament hopes. Besides, if it doesn't happen now, it just might not ever happen.


Bears Illustrated Top Stories