Texas Tech aspiring for consecutive major upsets as Baylor looks to keep its undefeated streak clean.
Date: Saturday, January, 16, 4 p.m. ET. ESPN
Arena: United Supermarket Arena in Lubbock. Texas.
To say that both of these teams have been tested this season has been an understatement. Not only with their patience, but with the schedule and uncertainty. Top 25 teams seem to be allergic to playing the Bears as they had another game canceled this week.
After getting heavyweight matchups like Gonzaga, potentially Villanova, and Texas canceled or postponed, the Bears would add another on Monday. Baylor was slated to play West Virginia in Waco on Tuesday. However, COVID-19 spread through the Mountaineers program and will be re-scheduled for a later date.
Prior to that, the Bears have been dominant, winning their previous 11 games by double figures. The Bears have a loaded backcourt, featured with four players averaging double figures on the season. Leading the pack is Jared Butler, who is coming off a 28-point performance against TCU. Butler carried the offense through multiple lulls until the Bears pulled away late.
The missing piece that was hoping to be filled from this Baylor team was the presence of Freddie Gillespie. Enter Johnathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua. The 6-8 Sophomore from Cameroon and transfer from UNLV brings energy for all 40 minutes. He has averaged nine points and 7.2 rebounds on the season. He brings electricity on the offensive end and can hold his own on defense.
Tchatchoua comes off the bench and isn’t the only bench presence that has made an impact so far. Junior Matthew Mayer can hold his own as his numbers have elevated this season. The former Top 100 recruit has averaged 9.3 points and 3.6 rebounds on a staggering 48 percent from beyond the arc.
Texas Tech got some gut-wrenching news when five-star F Nimari Burnett announced his intentions to enter the transfer portal. Although he was not a go-to scorer, he was good depth and had potential to become a top scorer. The loss of Burnett did not affect the Red Raiders on Saturday.
Behind a combined 37 points from Kyler Edwards and Mac McClung, Texas Tech beat Iowa State, 91-64. The Red Raiders did what they do best and attacked the ball near the rim.
The Red Raiders have quite a few flaws in their game. They aren’t a good three-point shooting team, ranking ninth in three-pointers attempted and made in Big 12 play. They also aren’t good at rebounding, ranking eighth in that category.
That did not matter on Wednesday when they upset No. 4 Texas. Behind forcing 15 turnovers and 22-28 from the free throw line, Texas Tech beat the Longhorns, 79-77. McClung led all scorers with 22 in the game, including the game-winning shot.
However, the Red Raiders get to the line at a rapid rate. They average 24 free throws per game in conference play. They also hold the best percentage from the line. The biggest impact on the season has been the arrival of McClung.
Busting Brackets’ own Caleb Hightower breaks down McClung’s skills and what he brings to the Red Raiders. The most improved player from last year’s Red Raiders has been Terrance Shannon. He has taken a new role and is the leading three-point shooter.
On a team lacking a perimeter threat, Shannon brings it. He is second in scoring behind McClung and leads the Red Raiders in three-point efficiency by quite a bit. Shannon averages 39 percent from beyond the arc. His 6’6 frame also helps him on defense, deflecting passes against other guards.
Baylor won this matchup in Lubbock last season, 57-52. The defensive slugfest had just three players score in double figures, with two coming from Texas Tech. The Bears out-rebounded Tech, 40-24, and shot 43 percent from the field.
The keys to a victory for Texas Tech is to take advantage of Baylor’s slow starts. Even if their defense has been elite, their offense has been flat over the past three games. The Bears were only up four on Iowa State and losing to TCU heading into halftime. Baylor shot just 1-10 from beyond the arc.
Even with the lack of offensive threats on the perimeter, Texas Tech plays elite defense. Texas Tech ranks seventh in the nation in points per game allowed at 58 points per game. TCU’s offense could not replicate their defensive performance and eventually could not hang.
If Texas Tech can find offense early, they could overwhelm the Bears. Big games from Edwards and Shannon will be needed for the Red Raiders to pull off the upset.
For Baylor, it has become momentum shifts. In key moments of games, a big play or two creates the Bears runs. The Bears went on a massive run when they defeated Illinois early in the season by 13. It was the same way against TCU.
More so, these momentum plays happen in the second half. In a hostile environment and elite defense, Baylor is going to need a few of those plays late to win. The expectation for this game is to be low scoring and a slugfest of defensive stands and turnovers.
Baylor swept the series last season and will have enough offense to make it three straight.
Prediction: #2 Baylor 62, #15 Texas Tech 56.