PREVIEW: Baylor vs. Texas

One of the hottest teams in the nation takes on perhaps its polar opposite this Saturday in Waco at 4:00 p.m. After a rough start to the season, the young Baylor (0-3) team hopes to show the #5 (AP, #6 Coaches Poll) Longhorns (15-2, 3-0) that the team will not be a pushover in the future. This might be a hard task on Saturday as Baylor tries to rebound from a 33 point loss by matching up against a team that won their last game by 34.

One of the hottest teams in the nation takes on perhaps its polar opposite this Saturday in Waco at 4:00 p.m. After a rough start to the season, the young Baylor (0-3) team hopes to show the #5 (AP, #6 Coaches Poll) Longhorns (15-2, 3-0) that the team will not be a pushover in the future. This might be a hard task on Saturday as Baylor tries to rebound from a 33 point loss by matching up against a team that won their last game by 34. The Bears Baylor enters this game with its players still struggling to find their roles on the team. Even pre-season sure fire sophomore guard Aaron Bruce has struggled to figure this team out. After a game he would surely like to forget against Colorado on Wednesday (30% shooting for 9 points, 0 assists, 3 turnovers), Bruce will try to try to regain his old form against Texas this weekend. Bruce averaged 15 points and 5.5 assists in two games against Texas last year.

The reason Baylor fans can remain optimistic is the play of 4 unique freshman. Last game against Colorado, one of those freshman, Henry Dugat, was the only Baylor player to finish with double figures in points (10). Another freshman, 7 footer Mamadou Diene showed his own signs of progress by finishing in double figures in rebounds (10) and by not fouling out. Curtis Jerrells continues to start along side Aaron Bruce and will be looking to rebound from a 2 for 11 shooting performance including 0 for 6 from 3 point land. Rounding out the contributing freshman is Kevin Rogers who had a solid 8 point, 7 rebound performance against Colorado including 4 for 4 from the free throw line. Each of these players has showed their own bit of brilliance from time to time – the question all year will be which one can step up to the next level and help lead this team to a victory.

The problem of course for Baylor is that it's hard to expect the 5 youngsters to carry a team against Big XII competition, and that's why they will be looking for returning experienced players like starters Tommy Swanson and Tim Bush and sub Patrick Fields to step up. The 3 combined for 2 for 12 shooting totaling 6 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 turnovers in 52 minutes of play against Colorado on Wednesday. If the Bears expect to win a game this year, these players will need to step up.

The Longhorns

Unlike Baylor, Texas appears to be completely comfortable in their roles, and has been on fire as of late. Texas had 4 players (P.J. Tucker, Brad Buckman, LaMarcus Aldridge, Daniel Gibson) score in double figures on Tuesday when they blasted Texas Tech 80-46. Sophomore forward LaMarcus Aldridge led the way with 19 points and 7 rebounds, followed closely by the other 3 who all had 16 points.

It wasn't only the offense of Texas that was difficult to contend with, but their suffocating defense only allowed 4 Tech players to score, caused their team to shoot 36% from the field, and forced 19 turnovers. Jonathan Plefka from Texas Tech had 0 points on 0 for 5 shooting – by comparison – he poured in 12 points against Baylor as he found soft spots in their zone defense.

The problem when you're facing a team as powerful as Texas is that stopping the hot player does not necessarily mean anything. Take Kenton Paulino for example; after having scored in double figures in 7 of his last 9 games and the last 3 going into the Tech game, Paulino only shot the ball 5 times and ended with 6 points. But his lack of scoring wasn't because he was off or because Tech shut him down; rather, it was because Texas relied on other scoring threats on that night and simply didn't need Paulino to score.

Baylor will have its hands full trying to contain all the talent on the Texas roster. One way the Bears might be able to keep this game closer is to use the adrenaline of playing in front of the Bear Pit and the rest of the Ferrell Center crowd. But that won't matter if Baylor can't find a way to generate some consistent offense. Consistency is hard to come by when the 5 youngsters (Bruce, Jerrells, Dugat, Rogers, Diene) are playing 130 of the 200 possible total minutes – but for Scott Drew there's no other way to produce improvement in this team than to give the players a chance to grow together as a team.

Some key matchups to watch during the game:
Aaron Bruce vs. Daniel Gibson: Two of the best freshmen of the Big XII from last year were these two guys. They were pretty even in their matchups last year and will likely be so again on Saturday. Amongst Baylor fans, the question was often debated in the off-season as to which player is better –this game should give them more to consider.

Curtis Jerrells vs. A.J. Abrams: These two talents were both highly touted coming out of high school. While both are still trying to find their way this season, this could be a fun matchup to watch over the next 4 years.

Tommy Swanson vs. LaMarcus Aldridge: While Aldridge has improved on his injury riddled season from last year, Swanson has yet to find his way on this new Baylor team. But for Baylor to have any chance at all, Swanson will need to have an improved performance against the future first round pick.

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