Baylor is set to host its first Big 12 Conference game of the season on Wednesday in primetime against Oklahoma.
TV Schedule: Wednesday, January 6th, 9 pm ET, ESPN2
Arena: Ferrell Center, Waco, TX
After surviving a scare at Iowa State on Saturday, the No. 2 Baylor Bears (9-0, 2-0 Big 12) will host the Oklahoma Sooners (6-2, 2-1 Big 12) on Wednesday night.
This will mark the 62nd meeting between the two programs. Oklahoma currently leads the all-time series 43-18. Baylor has won the last five straight meetings dating back to 2018. Last season, the Bears won 61-57 and 65-54.
No. 2 Baylor was able to survive an upset against the Iowa State Cyclones on Saturday. The Bears had an uncharacteristically poor game when it came to their bread-and-butter, which is their three-point shooting. The Bears shot just 4-for-19 (21.1 percent) from the perimeter in a 76-65 victory over Iowa State (in a game in which the final score does not indicate how close the matchup actually was).
Depth on Baylor’s roster, especially in the backcourt, has proved why the Bears are able to be one of the top teams nationally this season. Even on Saturday when Baylor struggled to make their outside shots, the Bears still were still able to have four players score in double figures.
Baylor currently has nine players who are averaging at least 14 minutes per game this season on their roster. Five of Baylor’s nine key players are shooting better than 42 percent from three-point range.
Stopping Baylor’s explosive backcourt trio of junior guard, Jared Butler (16 ppg, 5.8 apg), senior guard, MaCio Teague (15.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg), and junior guard, Davion Mitchell (12 ppg, 6.7 apg), will be a challenging task for the Sooner’s backcourt to defend on Wednesday night.
Oklahoma will have their hands full guarding the perimeter, as the Bears depth in the backcourt continues off the bench with sophomore guard, Adam Flagler (10.9 ppg), junior guard, Matthew Mayer (9.3 ppg), and freshman guard LJ Cryer (7.9 ppg). Flagler, Mayer, and Cryer are all shooting better than 42 percent from three-point range this season.
In the frontcourt, sophomore forward, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (9.9 ppg, 8 rpg), has developed into a solid inside option for the Bears. Tchamwa Tchatchoua averaged just 3.4 points per game and 3.5 rebounds per game during his freshman season at UNLV in 2018-19. This season, he has seen an 18 percent increase in his shooting percentage during his first season at the power conference level, converting on 65.5 percent of his shots inside.
Heading into Wednesday’s matchup, Baylor ranks in the Top 5 nationally in three statistical categories, averaging 92.9 points per game, shooting 43.8 percent from three-point range, and averaging 20.8 assists per game.
Defensively, the Bears have done a terrific job this season forcing turnovers. Baylor forced Stephen F. Austin into an extremely high 35 total turnovers in December, which resulted in 14 Baylor steals. Baylor currently ranks Top 15 nationally averaging 10.1 steals per game, with Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler leading the Bears averaging at least two steals per game.
Baylor’s Top 40 defense will have their biggest task yet in conference play on Wednesday when they defend Oklahoma’s Top 50 offense, which is averaging 81.8 points per game.
In their first loss, the Sooner’s backcourt struggled to defend the perimeter against Xavier, allowing the Musketeers to make 19 three-point shots, en route to a Xavier 99-77 victory. After dropping that 22-point contest, Oklahoma has been able to adjust and not get shredded defensively during their past five games. The game against Xavier has been an outlier this season, as the Sooners have allowed their opponents to score just 64.4 points per game during their previous five games.
The Sooners have been sneaky good as of late with a two-point loss to nationally ranked Texas Tech and with a victory on Saturday over Top 10 ranked West Virginia.
The concern for Oklahoma will be on their backcourt and whether it can stop Baylor’s sharp shooting perimeter. The Sooners allowed Mountaineers freshman, Jalen Bridges, to knock down five three-point shots, while Taz Sherman made four shots from the outside coming off the bench. Oklahoma will enter Wednesday’s matchup last in the Big 12, allowing their opponents to average 42.4 percent from three-point range during their three conference games.
Most of the Sooners scoring production this season comes from their senior duo with guard, Austin Reaves (15.5 ppg, 5 rpg, 5.4 apg), and forward Brady Manek (13.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg). However, on Saturday against West Virginia, it was junior guard, Umoja Gibson (9.9 ppg), who was the star. Gibson made eight three-point shots, scoring a season-high 29 points from the bench.
On Saturday, the Sooner’s starters shot just 3-for-18 from the perimeter. To keep up with Baylor, Oklahoma will need everyone down the lineup to make their shots when it comes to pulling off the upset against the number two ranked team nationally.
For Oklahoma, the Sooners are looking to steal another game against a nationally ranked opponent. Being on the bubble to await their fate on Selection Sunday has been the tale for Sooners fans in 2018 and 2019.
Last season, Oklahoma was looking like they would need Selection Sunday again to determine if they had made the NCAA Tournament (if there had been a 2020 NCAA Tournament). This season, Oklahoma could possibly end up in the bubble conversation again if they finish around .500 in the conference.
For Baylor, the Bears have the opportunity to take advantage of their matchup to get back on the right track with a bounce-back game, even though they are still undefeated. At home this season, the Bears are outscoring their opponents by a score of 380-226 through four home games. That’s an average home victory margin of 38.5 points.
Early in the new year, this game has meaning for both teams. Oklahoma is desperate for their biggest opportunity awaiting for them, while Baylor is looking to bounce back and prove why they are one of the top teams in the country.
Prediction: Baylor 85, Oklahoma 68