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Texas vs Baylor: Longhorns Seek Revenge Over Bears

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Texas vs Baylor tips at 3:00 p.m. CT at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, TX. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN.

The University of Texas men's basketball team (21-3, 9-0) returns to action on Saturday afternoon to host the Baylor Bears (16-7, 6-4), who after losing 23 straight games to Rick Barnes and Texas, have won the last four meetings dating back to the 2009 Big XII Tournament. The Bears swept the Longhorns last season, including a pair of double-digit wins in Waco and Kansas City.

Baylor Bears 2010-11 Season To Date

Baylor went 10-3 during their non-conference season, but played just three KenPom Top 60 teams. They lost all three, falling 65-68 to No. 58 Gonzaga in Dallas, and losing in Honolulu by 6 and 7 to No. 40 Washington State and No. 43 Florida State, respectively. All 10 of their non-con wins came against teams outside the Top 100, and only one -- a home win over No. 118 Arizona State -- was over a team ranked in the Top 150.

In conference play, the Bears won their first two -- at Tech and vs OU -- before losing by 15 at Iowa State and 20 versus Kansas in Waco. Since then they've gone 3-0 in Waco (OSU, Colorado, Nebraska) and 1-2 on the road (win at A&M, losses to K-State and Oklahoma).

All told, it's been a pretty pathetic season for Baylor. Out of 345 Division 1 basketball teams, only 12 played a softer non-con schedule than Baylor, and against the three teams they faced who are worth a lick, they went 0-3. In conference, they have exactly one quality win (at A&M), two bad losses (at Iowa State and at OU), and several lackluster home wins. The only thing impressive about Baylor this year is the talent on the roster. The actual performance has been mediocre, at best.

Baylor Bears Personnel

The Bears don't have a very good basketball team. The Bears do not have a coach. What they do have is a lot of height and length, and a lot of raw talent.

Leading the backcourt is the name you know, LaceDarius Dunn, the 6-4 senior who averages about 30 minutes per game, and takes almost 32% of the Bears shots when he's out there, virtually identical, usage-wise, to Jordan Hamilton (77% of minutes, 32% of shots). In fact, at least in terms of production, the similarities between Dunn and Hamilton this season are downright eerie:

Player Off. Rtg %Poss %Shots eFG% TS% ARate TORate FTM-FTA  FT% 2PM-2PA  Pct 3PM-3PA  Pct
LaceDarius Dunn 111.7 27.9 31.7 55.8 60.5 15.5 20.7 84-102 (82.4%) 45-104 (43.3%) 72-170 (42.4%)
Jordan Hamilton 116.2 27.1 32.0 56.0 58.5 16.9 14.9 62-82 (75.6%) 95-189 (50.3%) 61-144 (42.4%)

In other words, if youv'e been impressed with Jordan Hamilton this year, Baylor's got one of those. Pretty much exactly. Similar though their statistical profiles are, their games are a good bit different, as are the ways that they get used within the offense. Whereas Texas is running a systematic offense -- most often through Jordan Hamilton -- Baylor basically just runs a lot of one-on-one, dribble-drive offense, most often through Dunn.

(Wow. I just typed that.)

Dunn has good handles, a good (but streaky) shot, and a strong body with ability to finish at the rim. Dunn looks for his jump shot first, but he's not shy about going hard to the bucket and is at his best when he's earning 12+ trips to the free throw stripe.

With Tweety Carter gone, Dunn's backcourt partner this year is 6-1 sophomore AJ Walton, an athletic guard who can stroke it from beyond the arch but ist still learning how to be an effective all-around guard. He's got the quickness and athletic ability to go to the rim, but he often plays passively, disappearing for long stretches while deferring to Dunn. There's a lot of standing around and watching in the Baylor offense, to the detriment of a guy like Walton, who has more ability than the offense at this point allows him to show. If Texas successfully locks down Dunn as they have so many other stars this year, Walton will need to assert himself offensively for Baylor to avoid getting bogged down.

Baylor's real strength is their formidable frontcourt, which, while underachieving like everyone else, is loaded with talent and length. Lots and lots of length. Longhorns fans will get their first taste of freshman Perry Jones, a lanky 6-10 power forward who reminds me a whole lot of Lamarcus Aldridge. He's still skinny right now, but he's tall, long, has great hands, and good touch around the rim. At this point in his career he still struggles with double teams, and although Baylor has until recently done a terrible job of getting him the ball in good position, when they work it to him in position and he faces a single defender, he's getting better and better at turning it into a bucket or trip to the line.

Flanking the wiry center are juniors Quincy Acy and Anthony Jones. Jones is mostly just a tall body who does a little rebounding, but he can kill you on the weakside glass if your attention is focused on Perry Jones. The real danger is 6-7 Quincy Acy, who with his formidable wingspan plays a lot bigger than that. He's more athletic than polished, but he's got silly leaping ability and is a terrific finisher at the bucket.

If you're scoring at home, that's a front line that goes 6-10, 6-10, 6-7.  Against Baylor, Texas will be counting on Matt Hill much as they had to against Kansas, and will likely call on Alexis Wangmene for 7-10 quality minutes, as well. And this, really, is why Baylor presents the most formidable challenge left on the schedule for Texas. Not only are they -- by far -- the most athletic team left on the schedule, but they have the size and talent to somewhat dictate what Texas must do. Our best offensive line up may struggle with Baylor's size. Barnes may try to gamble some with a smaller man on Anthony Jones, but if Texas is getting killed on the boards there will be little choice but to sacrifice some offense to go big.

Keys to the Game

1.  Stretch the zone.  Baylor stymied Texas three straight games last season in large part because the Longhorns had no answer for the Bears' zone defense. Now, the Bears don't even play a great zone -- we're not talking about Syracuse here -- but they'll challenge Texas to execute their zone offense effectively on Saturday. The good news? During the first third of the season teams tried to play last year's book against this year's Texas team and got scorched. Frankly, I don't think you can zone this Longhorns team, but Baylor will try, and the most worrisome sign we could see on Saturday is if Texas struggles to stretch the zone because they can't hit outside shots. I don't worry about our ability to run good zone offense -- we've shown we know how to, and we'll have been practicing it for three straight days -- but it'll be a problem if we can't hit any jumpers. Baylor's so long inside that it'll be tough to get inside buckets if they can crowd the lane.

2.  Thirty minutes for Tristan Thompson.  If Baylor is smart, they'll work the ball inside over and over to start the game and try to pick up a couple whistles on Tristan Thompson. The Bears' best chance to win is a game in which Texas is on its heels playing musical chairs with its line up because we can't keep our best big on the floor. If Thompson plays 30+ minutes, we'll be fine. Without him, things get complicated, and we'll be asking more from guys like Wangmene than we would prefer to.

3.  Team rebounding.  The biggest danger posed by Baylor's frontline size advantage is the potential to kill us on the boards, a la UConn. With so many outstanding finishers at the rim, Baylor can fill it up with second chance points, and while we continue to do an amazing job playing help defense, at times that has come at the expense of rebounding, which can't happen Saturday. This is a game where it'll be more important for guards like Joseph and Balbay to hit the defensive boards than get out and run. I don't worry about us struggling to get good looks in the halfcourt, but I do worry about Baylor's ability to get good looks on second chances.

Prediction:  Texas 78  Baylor 70