(22) Baylor Bears (-1, 138 o/u) vs (23) Texas Longhorns
The fact that the no. 22 Baylor Bears (21-10, 10-8 Big 12) and no. 23 Texas Longhorns (20-11, 11-7 Big 12) are meeting in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament is a testament to just how strong the conference is this year. The teams split their two regular season meetings, with each winning on the road. Now they’ll play the rubber match on a neutral court at the Sprint Center in Kansas City tomorrow afternoon (12:30 PM Eastern).
Both teams had solid regular seasons, but they come into the tournament trending in opposite directions. Baylor dropped its final two regular season games (73-71 to Oklahoma and 69-58 to West Virginia), while Texas capped its year winning three of four, including an upset over the Sooners (76-63). Their lone setback in that stretch came against the current no. 1, Kansas.
The Longhorns will look to their stout defense to carry them into the semifinals. Under new head coach Shaka Smart and his trademarked “Havoc” defense, Texas is allowing just 67.8 points per game.
The Horns have struggled to score against similarly solid defenses, but they won’t be facing one such D tomorrow. Baylor gives up nearly 70 points per game and recently surrendered 100 to Iowa State (100-91), albeit in OT.
The Bears make up for their porous defense by scoring at a clip. They average 77.6 PPG and have a quartet of double-digit scorers, led by senior forward Taurean Prince (15.5 PPG). Fellow forward Rico Gathers didn’t take the strides many were expecting in his senior season, seeing his point production and rebounding both decline. But the pair will pose huge matchup problems for a small Texas team. That is, unless Texas center Cameron Ridley is able to return from a foot injury that’s sidelined him since December.
Ridley will be back for March Madness, but his status for tomorrow remains unclear.
Whether Ridley is on the floor or not, the trends seem to favor the Longhorns. They’re 7-2 ATS in their last nine as an underdog, while the Bears are 2-6-1 ATS in their last nine as a favorite. Take the hotter Longhorns to move on.
Pick: Texas (-1).
(Photo credit: Rikster2 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)