After stumbling to a 2-8 start out of the gate in Big 12 play, head coach Scott Drew has righted the ship down in Waco. The Baylor Bears are playing their best ball of the season and ride a four game winning streak into Austin to take on No. 24 Texas. Baylor will be looking to avenge a loss to the Longhorns earlier in the season.
Baylor is headed in the right direction while Texas is mired in a mini two game losing skid thanks to back-to-back road games at Iowa State and Kansas. For as good as Baylor has looked lately, an invite to the NCAA tournament is no sure thing.
Sure, their 18-9 (6-8 Big 12) record is nice to look at, but they’re sitting in just seventh-place in the Big 12. Lucky for them, the strength of the Big 12 (#1 RPI conference) should actually help Baylor despite their sub-.500 record in league play. According to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, Baylor is currently in the tournament as a number ten seed.
They’ve managed just one win against a top 25 RPI team — a five-point win over then-No. 3 Kentucky at AT&T Stadium way back in December — so a win tonight on the road against No. 24 Texas desperate to get back on track might be the shot in the arm Baylor needs to put them firmly in the field of 68.
If Baylor expects to leave Austin with a win, they’ll need to do a better job containing Texas freshman Isaiah Taylor, who scorched the Bears for 27 points in the first meeting. The timing might just be right for the Bears, as Taylor is coming off a 1-for-14 shooting night at Kansas. He’s also shooting just 32.5 percent over the last three games, well below his season average of 39.9 percent.
Baylor will also need top scorer Cory Jefferson to step up. Jefferson mustered just eight points in the first meeting, five under his season average. He’s had a few hiccups this year and when he does, Baylor usually finds themselves on the wrong side of the final score. When the senior fails to score 10 points, which has happened six times, Baylor has just one win.
The Bears have a golden opportunity to bolster their tournament resume tonight with a win tonight while stretching their winning streak five before returning to Waco for two games.