Preview: Baylor vs. Oklahoma

Tonight in Waco at 7 p.m., the Baylor Bears (0-4) will face what is becoming an all too familiar foe – an experienced team in mid-season form. That team tonight is the #22 ranked Oklahoma Sooners (11-4, 2-2), who enter the game with a 2 game winning streak.

Although the Bears showed signs of improvement in the 2nd half against the #5 ranked Texas Longhorns last Saturday, they have a long way to go to climb out of the Big XII cellar. The mark of the season thus far has been a show of greatness quickly followed by utter ineffectiveness. Fans at the Ferrell Center came to their feet against Texas as Pat Fields drained 3's, Kevin Rogers made plays in the paint, and Mamadou Diene inspired with his rebounding and defense. But they quickly sat back down as Baylor was unable to stop an on-fire Daniel Gibson.

It doesn't help matters for Baylor to see 2 of their most experienced players, senior Tommy Swanson and junior Tim Bush, finish with 0 points in 11 and 12 minutes, respectively. Perhaps the most disheartening thing has been to see star player Aaron Bruce struggle; he finished with 2 points on 1-7 shooting against the Longhorns. All three of these players will be looking to show their fans tonight that these first few games were just a result of growing pains.

Nonetheless, as it has the past 3 seasons, Baylor must look forward and move on. No matter how bleak the situation has looked in Waco, Coach Scott Drew has been able to keep players positive and will have to continue to do so this year. While many point to the youth as a reason for the Bears early struggles (which is a fallacy as the Baylor freshman seem to be playing better than the veterans), it might be something even more simple than that – the Bears can't score. Baylor is currently ranked #12 in scoring, #12 in field-goal percentage, #12 in 3 point percentage, and #12 in FT percentage. Unfortunately for Coach Drew, that's not #12 in the nation, but #12 in the Big XII.

Oklahoma comes into tonight's game with a much more balanced attack, with 4 players, including 3 seniors and 1 junior, averaging double-figures in scoring (compared to only one for Baylor). Those players, 3 of which came to Oklahoma from the junior-college ranks, comprise approximately 70% of the Sooner offense. One such player is junior Michael Neal, who poured in 15 points against Texas Tech last week helping him to earn Co-Big XII Rookie of the Week honors.

Oklahoma doesn't really rate off the charts in terms of offensive production, but they make up for it in defense and rebounding. Their #2 ranked scoring defense coupled with their #1 rank in defensive rebounding stats makes them a formidable opponent for every team in the Big XII.

Although the Bears can legitimately point to the unprecedented circumstances as justification for the slow start to their season, the Bears would really love to show their fans what they are capable of by knocking off a ranked opponent. Undoubtedly, Oklahoma will not want that opponent to be them.

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