A KenPom Preview: Baylor

OK, this is going to have to be ridiculously quick. We have to get this done in, like, 45 minutes, so, yeah. Speed-typing, engage.

Opening Thoughts

The game we've all been waiting for since conference play began. The goal, by-and-large, was to get to 6-0 going into Waco. This has been accomplished. That's over, done with. Now, we get the game that people have been assuming to be an L for awhile. That's always nice; to go into a game where you expected a L in the preseason. This presents us an opportunity to pick up a game, as it were. It's especially awesome when you go into an expected loss kind of game where you know you have a really good shot at winning.

And no matter how you slice it, we really could win this game. I promise. I mean, KenPom predicts it to be a one-point game (77-76), giving Baylor a 51% chance to win, and Kansas a 49% chance. That is about as close as it gets to a 50/50 toss-up. That's just how it is.

I can't wait.

Some quick, but in-depth, thoughts after the jump...

The Background

Coming into the year, Baylor was fully expected to make a return trip back to the NCAA Tournament. They returned nearly everyone important from last year's squad, and were picked by some to even win the Big 12. They started off the season well, getting to the finals of the absolutely-loaded 76 Classic out here in Anaheim. By getting to the Championship game, they offed better-than-expected Providence and potential-Pac 10-Champion (although, they've struggled a bunch in conference play) Arizona State. After a narrow loss to Wake Forest (yes, that Wake Forest), they won on the road, in Pullman, against Washington State. All of these are big positives, things that will help them a whole lot come Selection Sunday. However, the rest of their non-conference schedule was filled with fluff, except for a home game against South Carolina, which they lost. Now, while the Gamecocks' recent surge to the top of the SEC East Standings makes the loss look more forgivable, it isn't all that good of a loss.

And since conference play started, they've struggled big-time. They opened up conference play with a win against Tech, then went on the road to College Station and lost. They then beat two pretty solid teams in Oklahoma State (at home) and Kansas State (on the road) to seemingly right the ship. However, since then, they've been a bad team, losing three in a row. Now, those losses were @ Oklahoma, vs. Texas and @ Missouri, but three straight losses is three straight losses. All of that essentially makes this game tonight a must-win of sorts for the Bears; their non-conference resume is looking a little less solid with the dropoffs of Wazzu and ASU, and they have to win at least 9 in Big 12 play to make it. These are the type of game that they really, really need to win. This game is huge for them; ginormous.

The Offense

Four Factors

  • Effective FG% (17th) -- This is, easily, the best aspect of the Bears' offense. This is how they score a shitload of points, and how they win games. They make both threes and twos incredibly proficiently (36th and 25th, respectively), and are dangerous from anywhere on the floor. The key will be limiting their open looks, hoping this causes them to miss more shots than usual. If they aren't hitting their shots, they are very, very beatable. If they're on fire, they could beat just about anyone in the country.
  • Turnover % (70th) -- They don't turn the ball over a bunch, but they aren't like A&M, either. They are playmakers, after all, and playmakers tend to turn the ball over on occasion. If we can force a bunch of turnovers, that could only help us, but it isn't an incredible key, either.
  • Offensive Rebounding % (136th) -- No Nebraska, but the Bears don't get a whole lot of second chances on offense. With only two real threats on the offensive glass (Kevin Rogers and Quincy Acy), it isn't terribly difficult to focus on them and box them out. The key, like always, will be simply sticking a body on them and getting inside position. The Morris twins have improved a bunch over the past few games at this; let's see how they do it against legitimate, All-Big 12-caliber athletes.
  • FTA/FGA (48th) -- They do get to the line, a whole bunch. Particularly driving extroadniaire, Curtis Jerrells, but really, everyone on the team can draw fouls at a reasonable level. They aren't Xavier, or anything, shooting nearly as many freebies as field goals, but they still are well familiar with the charity stripe.

Miscellaneous

  • Beyond the really good field goal percentages, there are a couple other nuggets of note. One is that, despite merely a 'good' turnover %, they never, ever get the ball stolen from them. So, yeah, they'll turn the ball over, but it usually isn't on steals. Secondly, they aren't a good free throw shooting team. They get to the line quite a bit, but only shoot 68% there as a team. Nothing special.

The Defense

Four Factors

  • Effective FG% (129th) -- You'll see that type of ranking a bunch with the Bears. Lots of mediocre (for power conference teams, at least), well-below-average numbers, but nothing outstandingly poor. They are just, around the board, a poor defensive team. Not a terrible one, maybe not even a bad one, per se, just a below-average, poor, mediocre D.
  • Turnover % (146th) -- See what I mean? They don't turn you over all that much, so the key will be no stupid mistakes. It's one thing to turn the ball over 20+ times against Nebraska; a team that forces so many turnovers, it's almost acceptable. That's who they are as a defensive team, so if they turn you over a bunch, it's somewhat defensible. But, if you turn the ball over a bunch because you simply can't take care of the ball against a D that isn't terribly proficient at turning you over, and you are in big trouble. Big, big trouble.
  • Offensive Rebounding % (214th) -- You know how I said none of their defensive statistics stood out as particularly bad? Well, I was kind of wrong. Their OR% rate is quite awful, and we should have plenty of opportunities to pick up second chance points. Morris twins, I'm looking at you. You've done an excellent job these past two games against abnormally small teams at going up and grabbing the freakin' ball. Let's see if you can do it against a more athletic, more talented, taller Baylor frontline.
  • FTA/FGA (146th) -- Aaand, back to the simply mediocre stats. They'll foul you some, they'll let you shoot the freebies, some, but nothing extravagant. Just same old, same old. I don't think we'll do anything differently in this sense; just continue to have Sherron and Tyshawn (if he's 'on', at least) drive the lane and either kick or continue in and draw fouls, or whatever.

Miscellaneous

  • They are particularly poor at allowing the three (184th in the country), so we'll get to that in a second. That is about all that is relevant, however.

The Players

Curtis Jerrells G -- The Bears' best player, Jerrells is a slasher extroadinaire. He loves driving to the ball, he loves attacking the rim and drawing contact. Like I said, he gets the foul line a whole hell of a lot. And he'll shoot the three some, too (93 attempts on the year, second on the team), but his main game is to drive and get fouled.

Henry Dugat G -- Dugat is the defensive specialist on the Bears; the guy that will most likely be the one assigned to guard Sherron Collins. Good luck. But seroiusly, that is his main purpose to the team; the best defender on an overall porous defensive ball club. Offensively, he is also a driver, although he can spot up and shoot the rock from the outside, too.

Tweety Carter G -- Tweety is, statistically, the best offensive player on the team, at least in terms of Offensive Rating. He rarely turns the ball over, which is nice, and loves shooting the three. Not as much as the soon-to-be-mentioned LaceDarius Dunn, but still; Carter likes the long ball.

Quincy Acy F -- A freshman, Acy is their dirty-work player, of sorts. He is, by a very large margin, the best rebounder on the team; particularly defensive. He isn't much of a scorer, only has taken 14% of the team's shots, and is entirely confined to the interior, he's taken 0 threes on the year. However, he serves his purpose on the Bears as the dude who gets rebounds so the Mickey D's All-Americans can score the points. He also is a very good rejecter of shots.

Kevin Rogers F -- Rogers, honestly, is probably the Bears' most gifted player. He is, actually, better on the offensive glass than Acy, and is, really, their only scorer on the inside.

Lacedarius Dunn G -- Lacedarius, besides having an incredibly awesome name (I always like creativity in names, as long as it's within reason), is probably the best three-point specialist in the Big 12. Hell, he might be the best this side of Kyle McAlarney in the entire country. He doesn't do much besides shoot the trey, but he's shot 154 of them on the season; making 42% of them. That is just ridiculous. And he isn't entirely immune to the two-pointer; he's taken 72 of them. But don't get mistaken; Lacedarius likes standing behind the 20'9" line. He isn't afraid in the least to shoot, either; he's taken 30% of Baylor's shots on the year, the 114th highest percentage in the country. For reference, Sherron has only taken 29.3% of our shots so far this season. So, yeah, damn. However, despite all of that shooting, he is still easily the best shooter on the team according to eFG%; the 56th best in the country. The key to the game is shutting down Lacedarius.

The Keys

  1. Limit Open Threes -- The key to this game is to force them to take contested, hand-in-their-face three-pointers. They'll still take the shots, sure; particularly that one Lacedarius fool. But if they're contested, they won't make as many. And when they aren't hitting as many threes, their offense isn't nearly as good. They are then left with, pretty much, just Curtis Jerrells driving and Kevin Rogers on the interior. Still a damn good offense, really, and they could still put up 80 on us. But, not quite the 8th best offense in the country.
  2. Limit Your Turnovers -- This is huge. They don't turn you over a whole bunch usually, so if they do, their defense is exponentially better. No, seriously, like exponentially. If we can't hold on to the ball, we are in for a treat. In a bad way, though. A really, really bad treat.
  3. Second Chance Points -- We'll get more into this in a second in the KenPom Preview's newest feature, but if we can get free points off the offensive glass, we could win this game by a bunch. Their D is pretty bad, and we'll score quite a bit on them regardless. But, if we can get free points by simply outhustling the Bears on the glass, we could conceivably score every time down. Obviously, that's ridiculous, but it is theoretically possible. Really.

Who to Watch For

Baylor - Lacedarius Dunn (G) -- If he goes off, like he did against K-State (9-12 from three), we could be in for a long night. Thank goodness for us, we have this one dude named Brady Morningstar to shadow him across the entire court. Still, even with Brady, the dude's a shooter, and if he goes off, we're in big trouble. Particularly if we are spending Brady's incredible defensive talents on him, and he's still hitting his shot. Brady, please cover him really well. Thanks.

Kansas - Morris Twins (Fs) -- Really, I created this feature to talk about Markieff and Marcus. They've got a big game in them, and I think this is when it's going to burst out of them. They've both played damn-near-awesome in the past two games; now is the time for them to show up that well against a really good opponent. And, being the huge fan of them that I am, I say they show up in a big way. They get a bunch of extra layups off of second chance points, pickup a shitload of rebounds in general, and stay out of foul trouble for the most part. They even limit their stupid turnovers, and make a couple of nice shots. And even make their free throws.

I'll go with a combined line of: 19 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks, 4 assists, 3 turnovers, 3 fouls.

Victory is ours, if that last little line happens. I promise.

I know this is late, but hopefully you read it. I'm really pleased with how it came out.

OGT in about 10...

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