Preview / Open Thread: No. 25 Texas Longhorns at No. 21/22 Baylor Bears

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Texas Longhorns (23-7, 9-6)
@ Baylor Bears (23-6, 10-5)

Saturday, Mar 6, 2010, 3:00 PM CST
Ferrell Center(10,284) * Waco, TX
TV: ESPN (Franklin & Valvano) * Radio: KVET

Ken Pom Ratings: Texas #13  /  Baylor #14
Ken Pom Predictor:   Baylor 75-72 (71 possessions)

Final Day of Regular Season in the Big 12 & Open Thread
Texas Basketball Report 3.6: March Madness Arrives

Complete Coverage >


Before you tune into for this afternoon's game, I encourage you to read my recap from the first meeting. Although the Bears upset the 'Horns in Austin, there were still elements of the loss that I liked.

I hoped after that loss that Texas could quickly put things back together and find a way to challenge Kansas and Kansas State for the Big 12 title. I was wrong as the slide continued, and Texas now needs help to even finish in the top four.

The first step to earning a top four slot is to win today in Waco.

  • With a loss, Texas will be the No. 6 seed and take on No. 11 seed Iowa State on Wednesday evening at 8-30 pm (Big 12 tournament bracket).
  • With a win, however, Texas could be the No. 4 seed (with a win, an Aggie loss, and a Missouri loss OR with a win, an Aggie loss, and a Missouri win) or the No. 5 seed (with a win, an Aggie win, and a Missouri loss OR with a win, an Aggie win, and a Missouri win). Hope that makes sense. Big12Sports.com breaks down all the tiebreaker scenarios here. 
  • UPDATE: Due to A&M's win in Norman, Texas cannot be the No. 4 seed under any scenario. Texas is the No. 5 seed with a win and the No. 6 seed with a loss.

Keys to the Game:

1. Cut off dribble penetration. In the first game, Tweety Carter killed Texas by turning the corner and getting into the lane. He scored all game long in the paint or got fouled and earned his points at the line. On the game, Carter scored a game-high 27 points, including a solid 10-of-12 from the free throw line. Today will be Carter's final game in Waco, so like James and company on Monday night in Austin, Tweety will be trying hard to go out a winner. His quickness alone makes defending him difficult, but when you add in his ability to knock down the three-pointer, defenses are forced to pick their poison. Play off of him and give him open looks from three or crowd him on the dribble and risk him breaking down your defense by getting into the paint off the bounce. We missed Varez Ward's defense in the first meeting, and I'm afraid we'll miss Dogus Balbay's defense today. For Texas to win, J'Covan Brown's gonna have to move his feet exceptionally well. Brown was solid, along with teammate help, on defending Tommy Mason-Griffin on Monday. Barnes will need an equally strong effort this afternoon.

2. Find shooters in the halfcourt. As a team, Baylor shoots 39% from behind the arc, good for 21st best in the country. The Bears were uncharacteristially cold (just 3-of-12) from three in the game in Austin, and they still won. I expect them to shoot the ball better from deep in Waco. We've already identified Carter as a three-point threat; the other Bear to tag closely is LaceDarius Dunn. The Dunn assignment should go to Avery Bradley. If Carter or Dunn go off, it will be another long road game for Texas.

3. Win battle on boards and points in the paint. As good as the Baylor guard are, it has been the play of the BU frontcourt (Ekpe Udoh, Quincy Acy, and Anthony Jones) that has helped catapult the Bears toward the top of the Big 12 conference. In the first meeting, both teams scored 40 points in the paint, and Texas only outrebounded Baylor 41-40. For Texas to win, Damion James, Dexter Pittman, and Jordan Hamilton must control the defensive glass and limit second looks at the basket.

4. Make LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter defend. This is one of those old bball rules: make offensive players play defense. Like Texas, Baylor is not a deep team, and Scott Drew will probably play seven, maybe eight guys today. If Texas can somehow get Carter or Dunn in foul trouble and force Coach Drew to play AJ Walton or Nolan Dennis for extended minutes, the Longhorns will have a much better shot. This means that Bradley, Hamilton, and Justin Mason need to attack the basket off the dribble and not just settle for jump shots.

5. Play smart basketball. This means a lot of things but is most directed toward the Texas freshman. J'Covan must take care of the ball as Dunn, Walton, and Carter all have the ability to pick his pocket. Brown must also recognize and control the flow of the game--no quick shots, play through Damion James, and look for opportunities to attack the rim. For Bradley, playing smart means playing defense without fouling and not just settling on offense for mid-range jumpers. Avery got in foul trouble against OU on Monday. He is too important to defending Dunn to sit today. For Hamilton, playing smart also means attacking the rim with the bounce, looking for his jumper in spots, and really helping on the defensive boards. 

Hook 'em.

Other Previews:
TexasSports.com
Statesman.com
on Damion James' confidence and honesty.
CBSSports.com

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