Just for a change of pace, the young Bears of
Baylor led by their young second year coach, Scott Drew, have actually played a
non-conference schedule this year, all thirteen games of it, including a defeat
of non NCAA Division I, Angelo State. Without comment at this time on the
strength of the schedule, let me say Baylor did quite well, going 10-3, having a
good win and losing only to three pretty good teams. In addition, they only
lost one home game, a close loss to South Carolina, which is10-3. The Bear's
play against these thirteen opponents coupled with their play against their
first two conference opponents indicates a marked improvement in play over their
last full season of 2004-2005. In that somewhat futile season they started out
well in terms of wins and losses, 8-3, though against a creampuff schedule.
However, one knew not all was well when they got beat at home by ultimately 8-19
Louisiana Monroe, 75-61. Baylor also lost 77-43, though on the road, to another
9-19 team, SMU, which was annihilated at Texas Tech 105-67. Sure enough, Baylor
finished an ignominious 1-15 in conference.
Scott Drew has the reputation of being an up and coming good coach and a resourceful recruiter. This bodes well for Baylor, if not this season, perhaps in the near future. They have actually attracted their first Mickey D All-American and have several other highly recruited young players. That may well be the harbinger of good times for the future, but it also highlights the greatest failing of the Bears. They may be talented and play well in spurts, but they are young and inexperienced and thus subject to inconsistency and lapses in judgment. Despite these drawbacks they appear to be well coached, scrappy, and of course unpredictably good at times. That is what makes this game no sure win for the Texas Tech Red Raiders. That and the fact that they have that good old home court advantage.
By the Numbers
In terms of relative strength, I use my Composite Power Rating, which indicates that despite having a much better CPR, Tech is an underdog by a razor thin margin of about one point. The only reason for this is the edge given to the home team. Las Vegas may well have this game as a Pick'em. I'm not sure that I'd bet the game, for a What a Burger with grilled onions and a milk shake of course, but if you put my feet to the fire, I would have to pick Tech despite the home advantage.
With regard to RPI as last reported., with Tech's home win over Oklahoma and road win over Kansas State, the move on my Composite RPI from 27 to 20 was more than a nice move, it was a big leap. This would be very good territory in the eyes of the NCAA. To emphasize again, the RPI is not a power rating that is an attempt at measuring how good a team is. Rather it is an
indicator looked at closely by the NCAA. Its real utility seems to be in giving some insight into the difference between teams with similar profiles at NCAA Tourney picking and seeding time.
No loss is a good loss, but a road loss is less damaging to one's RPI. The major damage inflicted here would be because of Baylor's not very good RPI in the 120's. On the flip side, despite that low RPI, the NCAA formula inserted road win bonus would assuredly help Tech, even if only marginally.
|Per Game Statistical Comparison (Rounded Off)|
In my Scouting Report on Kansas State, I felt
and therefore said something so liberating that I'm going to say it again, but
I'll give you the shorter version. What do all these beautiful stats mean? They
are pretty meaningless, at least as to Baylor. With reference to Tech, they are
still reflective of their performance to the degree that statistics can be,
except for their 3 point shooting. That bears closer scrutiny, which we will
do in a bit. Why are the overall numbers irrelevant as to Baylor? Simply
because they are in many instances too inflated to matter. Obviously teams may perform less well against their better opponents, but here the discrepancy is more glaring than usual, and thus we will mainly focus throughout on the stats from five games except for purposes of comparison. Those games are against, in chronological order. Colorado State, Gonzaga, South Carolina, Syracuse, Oklahoma State, and Texas A & M. This narrow scrutiny also highlights the inconsistency of individuals as well as the
team. That is Baylor's nemesis, as it was with New Mexico. Here I believe inconsistency to be much more a function of youth and inexperience, plus underperformance by the key player on the team, the acclaimed Aaron Bruce.
Super Aussie Aaron Bruce has been an enigma this season. He had a brilliant freshman season and a somewhat sophomore slump. He was expected to come back in style and was named to various preseason All Big 12 first team squads. The talent is apparently there, so how has he been doing this season? Well, he has started every game. However, to put it bluntly, in my estimation, he is not doing very well, but maybe they don't have anyone better. One hears how certain players do "all the little things" that are invaluable to the team but don't show up on the stat sheet. Maybe he is doing that. Maybe defenses totally focus on him and he is being double teamed unmercifully, thus opening up opportunities for other players. Maybe he is the ultimate
decoy and his defense is so good that he is indispensable. Maybe so, but the cold hard numbers say he is not having nearly the season that was expected of him. It is not necessarily that he is not putting up big numbers. What I will be focusing on is his apparent inconsistency, especially against the best opposition that Baylor has faced.
For starters, let's look at his scoring. He began the season inauspiciously, albeit in a double OT win over tough 10-3 Colorado State. It was at Spokane, Washington, in the NIT Season Tipoff, away but not a road game. Bruce shot a mere 3/11 FG's, 0/3 on three pointers but still finished with 13 points with 7/8 FT's. Not brilliant, but OK. Against Gonzaga, a losing effort, 69-78 where the score does not reflect the decisiveness of the loss, Bruce was shut out, 0/12 on FG's, 0/6 on 3's, and zero on Ft's without even getting to the line. Under any circumstances Baylor would have had a tough time against Gonzaga in their home city of Spokane. At that point, the Zags had won 46 straight there, 41 in their home gym and 5 in Spokane Arena. But come on! Maybe he just needed to warm up. Well he finally did, first in the 90-59 pounding of 2-13 Alcorn with 20 points on 6/9 3 's and then with 18 against 5-6 Grambling, with 6/9 FG's and 3 /6 3's, in a 90-59 route. He seemed back on the right track against the Bear's next good opponent, South Carolina, though in a losing cause in a very close game, 59-64. He scored 15 points, even though he was only 1/7 on 3's but 6/6 on 2's. In the very next game against then ranked #23 Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, he seemed to have kept his momentum going with an OK performance of 10 points and 2/5 3's. Then except for pretty good numbers and probably a game saving performance at home against Delaware State, his offensive performance has gone into the dumpster. Against #12 Oklahoma State on the road, while losing 77-81, Bruce scored only seven points on 1/ 8 FG's, the one FG being only 1 in 4 3 pointers along with making 4/4 FT's. Finally in a closely fought game against A & M on Tuesday, his performance was nothing to write home about. He scored 2 points on 0/3 FG's, missing his one three pointer, and even on his forte, assists, only dished out one of those. Admittedly the competition was tough, but I would think even Bruce expected more ofhimself. As a counterpoint, other Baylor players have had good games, even spectacular games against good opponents.
As I suggested maybe Bruce has been the ultimate decoy, but that doesn't show up in the stat sheet.
Bruce has never been a prolific rebounder, nor should he be expected to be, so we can dispense with that. However even during his relatively slumping second year and this year, assists have been his best contribution in my view. A brief summary follows: He started out OK with 4 against Colorado State, and despite his woes offensively versus Gonzaga, he dished out a superlative 11 in that game. He was doing fine against the éclairs and had 5 assists against South Carolina and six against Syracuse, but again hit the wall with only 2 against OSU and a bare 1 against the Aggies.
I asked this in the last Report about Walker and unfortunately it became irrelevant with his injury. Why am I going into excruciating detail about Aaron Bruce? Simply because it seems that as Bruce goes so go the Bears. Even with a minimal performance, the games against good opponents are close, even in losses. Such a performance certainly helped in the hard fought victory against Colorado State. Against little Delaware State, he had 18 points. In that narrow at home 59-56 win, I feel a lesser performance might well have resulted in a defeat. Before you start thinking that the game against the Hornets indicates weakness,
they are not a team to be overlooked. They still have an SOS better than all teams in the B12, except for Tech and OSU and are in a virtual tie with Oklahoma and Kansas. In fact, prior to playing three games, and winning them to lead a conference in which every team had a losing non conference, Delaware State probably had a better SOS than perhaps all of the B12. Again without too much detail, they played and did lose on the road; to Pitt, Marquette, Purdue Michigan, Missouri State, and Wisconsin. However, they played several close at least for a half. Against the vaunted Badgers, the Hornets were still only down 39-35 with 14 minutes to play, though ultimately losing 64-52.
What indicates team inconsistency.? For one, Baylor at times tends to play down to the level of their opposition and not just because they are clearing the bench. They have been particularly sloppy in TO's. They had 10 against Gonzaga and lately 14 and 12 respectively against OSU and A & M. On the other end of the spectrum they out TOed 6-9 North Carolina A & T by a wide
margin, 23 to 14, and went TO to TO with 1-13 Prairie View, 18 to 18. And if you think they have gotten more consistent with time, with the B12 games in mind, three games back against Centenary they made 20 to 19 for the Gents.
I've already written a novel, so with regard to discrepancies between Baylor's overall performance and that against their best opponents, I'll just hit the high spots. As a team against the best six opponents, Baylor had only made143/358 FG's or 40%, substantially below their season average. While out-rebounding all but one of their cream filled doughnut opponents, the Bears have in turn been out-rebounded by the Strong Six. On the plus side, paradoxically in TO's Baylor has performed well, keeping it close and doing better than 4 of 6, better than marginally against Gonzaga, 10 to 15., and 16 to 20 against Colorado State. I'll treat the issue of 3 point shooting separately, because a look at Tech on this issue seems relevant.
3 Point Shooting Mystery
Here we go again, bad news, good news. For several games now I have been doggedly touting Tech's 3 point shooting prowess as a strong point that might serve them in good stead in contrast to their opponent's lesser expectations. My error, though I thought it reasonable at the time. We of course know that to depend on stats can be illusory and to build one's hopes on perceived trends can be to build on sand, because they are made to be broken.. Straight out, Tech's overall sterling looking 3 point shooting percentage of over 44% is misleading. So what have they done for us lately? Their may be good reason for a swoon. Tech has faced some pretty good coaches recently. We know that if you focus on one aspect in defense you are apt to perhaps give something away in another area. So maybe the opposing defenses are either just flat better or are concentrating so
heavily on stopping the three that Tech is doing less well there, but gaining in another aspect. Let us not forget the possible impact of injuries. I am not equipped to make those fine distinctions., at least not in anything less than a treatise. All I can tell you here is that their numbers are down, way down.
It's been a long dry spell, except for the New Mexico game where Tech had a very respectable 6/11, more than matching NM's 11/25, at least in percentage, with Jarrius Jackson making 5/8. However, in the other four of the last five games, Tech has only made a poor 11/44 or 25%. Without going into particulars, individual performance has of course also diminished, though Alan Voskuil on small numbers has shot 4/10 for the best average. Mine not to reason why, nor to find fault, but it is what it is, and while one can hope for improvement, that is always a thin read to try to stand on in choppy waters. Simply put, Tech can't depend on its own skill solely to outperform Baylor on 3's.
Now for the good news. I believe the preview really missed it saying Baylor "has no concerns from the perimeter". Baylor doesn't seem to shoot the 3 very well, especially against decent opponents. They also had their good blip, against OSU, shooting 10 of 24. In fact, for much of the game it was not nearly as close as the final score would indicate. OSU was leading 37-24 at the half, and was still leading comfortably in the second half until Baylor got hot, hit a flurry of 3's and made it tight.. Sorry but I
had to laugh while looking at the AP recap on that game. Shows what slaves many fans are to statistics. Much was made of the fact that Baylor was shooting 50.3% overall, eighth in the nation, before being held to a meager 41.7% by OSU. Well, we who know the truth know that's actually slightly above their average against good teams. Back to the issue at hand. On the downside for Baylor, in the games against their other best five opponents, they were 4/20., 9/23, 5/24, 7/26, and 3/14 in reverse chronological order. Gotta make you work a little. That's a grand total of 28/107 or roughly 26 % off the top of my head. As to individual performance, I'll only look at Aaron Bruce's numbers. Since I'm already picking on him and he, along with Tweety
Carter, takes the majority of the 3 point shots, I might as well pile on. Against the Best Six, he has only made 4/26, less than 15%. Tech should hope that, like K St as a team and Giddens of NM as an individual, who seem to think they can make 3's consistently (contrary to all facts), they keep on trying and missing. Just don't forget to play a little D. I'll mention Tweety later.
Baylor Strong Point
Paradoxically, one thing Baylor does even slightly better against the best teams is shoot FT's at about a 75% rate. I'll go ahead and throw in my Tip for the Day here. This is one area where Bruce excels, against everybody. If you can help it Tech, don't put him at the line. He is a deadly 89.7% FT shooter. Although I'm sure in a critical situation Baylor would try to put the ball in Bruce's hands, if possible Fields, Lomers, or Diene (if he's not out) would be the targets of choice.
I think this horse has been beaten bloody, given my premise regarding their opponents. A minor aside, but when I saw their schedule I thought I was in the Twilight Zone and Baylor had transferred into the SWAC Conference, with Texas Southern, Alcorn, Grambling, and Prairie View all on their Schedule.
They generally start 6' 9" sophomore Forward Kevin Rogers, 7' sophomore Center Mamadou Diene from Senegal, sophomore Guard Curtis Jerells, junior Bruce, Nd sophomore Guard Henry Dugat. Their main backups are Mc Donald AA Twwety Carter, 7' freshman Center Josh Lomers, 6'6" Forward Tim Bush, and also 6' 6" Forward/Guard Patrick Fields.
Carter was all world scorer in high school and could be very dangerous; he lit up a good Syracuse defense for 31 points, making 7/12 3's in the process. Other scoring threats include Henry Dugat who score 29 and grabbed 7 rebounds against Colorado State. However, there is only one player who I would regard as a consistent threat. Kevin Rogers was previewed as capable
of putting up big numbers and, to Tech's detriment, he is working his way there. He racked up some decent numbers early, but seemingly his strength was his rebounding and not scoring at that stage, getting 8 rebounds against Colorado State and 6 against Gonzaga. Then he started revving it up with 18 against Texas State, 14 against South Carolina with 7 rebounds, and an OK 10 points with 5 rebounds against Syracuse. But against OSU he really got going, scoring 18 point and getting 6 rebounds against them and doing even better with 19 points and 9 rebounds against A & M. I'm sure Tech will show a healthy respect for Rogers.
An X factor is starting center Diene. He suffers from acute tendonitis and his availability is a on a game by game basis. While not a big scoring threat, he is a good rebounder and shot blocker and his very presence in the middle can clog things up and cause opponents to not be able to do everything they would like. His sub, Lomers, so far has not done well. But then in one game he was against Mr. Boggan of OSU and Jones of A & M in the other. That wraps it up on the Baylor players since scoring averages and other minutia don't seem relevant, given my premises.
As opposed to the mixed bag regarding K St, this one is short and sweet and bereft of frills and thrills and facile trite suggestions. Texas Tech should win this game, perhaps not even playing offensively at full capacity and simply playing with a defensive intensity close to what they displayed against K St.
Once more, "dancing with the one that brung ‘em", their great guard group, and scoring about 70 points or slightly less, they should prevail. There is always the positive Coach Knight edge. Finally, perhaps ad nauseam to some, but hopefully music to the ears of most of the Raider faithful, it seems to me that by now the almost veteran Tech team, forged in the fire of road adversity and having survived the gauntlet of wave after wave of surging adversaries, should win.