Kansas and Kentucky might highlight the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, but Baylor and Arkansas arguably give us the better matchup. Two years after these rising programs met in the Elite Eight, they both find themselves in the projected tournament field again. Baylor has bounced back after stumbling early in Big 12 play, while Arkansas is also trying to recover after some bad injury news.
Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks and predictions for Saturday’s matchup in Waco.
Arkansas vs. Baylor Odds
Baylor enters as a 6.5-point home favorite, sitting at -265 on the moneyline. The over/under is set at 144.5 points.
Both of these teams have hit bumps in conference play, but Baylor looks like a team that has started to turn a corner with five consecutive wins. Arkansas is coming off back-to-back wins itself, however, and Eric Musselman always has his teams prepared. Can the Razorbacks keep this one close on the road?
Arkansas vs. Baylor Prediction & Pick
Arkansas matches up fairly well with Baylor, but these are two teams that look like they’re trending in different directions.
The Razorbacks are trying to piece it all together after two major injuries, and while the defense remains impressive, beating Ole Miss and LSU at home is not the same as taking on Baylor’s powerful offense in Waco. Arkansas is just 1-4 in true road games, with the one win coming against Oklahoma before conference play began.
Baylor has proven it can hang with the best of the best in a loaded Big 12 conference and is playing with enough confidence to win this one comfortably.
Arkansas vs. Baylor Key Matchups
Baylor has started to find its footing in the Big 12, winning five straight including a home matchup with Kansas. This isn’t the Bears team that won a national title with excellent defense in 2021. Instead, it’s the offense that is carrying the load for Scott Drew’s team.
Baylor has one of the best offensive backcourts in the nation in LJ Cryer and Adam Flagler, who are both shooting near or above 40% from beyond the arc. The x-factor this season has often been freshman Keyonte George, who leads a thinner frontcourt. He’s Baylor’s leading scorer at 16.9 points per game and had some outstanding games early in Big 12.
George struggled mightily against both Kansas and Oklahoma. The fact that those were both wins is a great sign for this team, but he does have to find a way to score more consistently. George also brings some defensive value, while Jalen Bridges and the (very) experienced Flo Thamba are two of the defensive anchors in the frontcourt.
With that being said, Baylor’s defense leaves plenty to be desired. Teams are shooting higher than 50% on two-point shots, and that’s significant against an Arkansas team that does most of its work inside the three-point line.
The Razorbacks are running thin right now with Nick Smith Jr. and Trevon Brazile out, and it’s cost them some games. The defense has gotten back on track in the last two games, even holding LSU to 40 points, but it struggled earlier in January and is facing a top-tier Big 12 offense on Saturday. Arkansas should still have the defensive advantage.
Freshman Anthony Black has become a do-it-all point guard and will have his hands full against Baylor’s talented offensive backcourt. That tandem, not known for its defense, will have its own major challenge in Arkansas guard Ricky Council IV, who is averaging nearly 17 points per game.
One of the keys to this game will be big man Davonte Davis, who will compete with Baylor on the boards. He’s known for his defense near the basket, which may not be as critical considering Baylor relies on plenty of outside shooting, but Davis could make an impact on the offensive end considering Baylor hasn’t always held up well in that department.
Arkansas defends the three well, holding opponents to 31%. If they can sustain that against Cryer and Flagler – easier said than done – the Razorbacks can stay competitive.