A Big-12 matinee today showcases two teams going in very opposite directions at the start of conference play. Texas, winners of four straight games, travel in-state to take on a Baylor Bears team clinging to the 24th spot in the national rankings despite losing three straight games. The momentum hasn’t scared oddsmakers, who have still made Baylor 5.5-point favorites to beat the Longhorns.
This is an interesting matchup. On the outside, it appears Baylor is the superior talent on its home floor and should roll the Longhorns. But the way UT is playing combined with Baylor’s apathetic style of play as of late makes it extremely concerning to want to back BU. Very much like my Ohio State play – that didn’t end up going so well – this week, I am going to look for Baylor to bounce back and find a spark at home to snap a losing streak against an opponent it should be able to handle just about everywhere on the floor.
It starts with the meat on the inside for Baylor. Jefferson, Austin and Gathers are all unique in their own right. Length, physicality and strength, the Baylor frontline is deep, versatile and dangerous. Cameron Ridley has been playing fantastic for Texas, and I expect him to continue to play well. That said, he will need some help and I’m not sure that Texas has that second big man that can compliment Ridley to truly compete with the Baylor bigs. It would probably be intelligent for Baylor to target Ridley in an attempt to hit him with some fouls but, more importantly, just make him work. The sophomore has made strides in his second season but his conditioning is still nowhere near the level of Jefferson or Gathers. Look for Baylor to attack Ridley.
Texas actually does have the athleticism advantage on the perimeter. Jonathan Holmes is the player that Baylor may potentially struggle to contain. It’s not as if the Bears are deprived on the outside. They just feature a little bit different look than Texas’ slashers. People know about Brady Heslip. But it’s Kenny Chery that needs to start getting on track. Cherry came out flying in non-conference play, replacing Pierre Jackson. But his production and efficiency has dropped in the Big-12 schedule. Just a year removed from junior college, Cherry still has lots to prove at the highest level of college basketball. This afternoon would be a great start.
Baylor gets back on track at home and takes it to the Longhorns to snap the winning streak and get off their own schnide.