If Texas wants to sneak into a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday, it’ll almost certainly require a road win over Baylor this weekend. Two legitimate Final Four contenders face off four weeks after a fun battle in Austin, with the Bears looking to rebound from back-to-back losses and the Longhorns hoping to keep pace with Kansas atop the Big 12.
Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks and predictions for Saturday’s matchup in Waco.
Texas vs. Baylor Odds
Baylor enters as a 3.5-point home favorite, sitting at -166 on the moneyline. The over/under is set at 148.5 points.
The Bears are coming off back-to-back losses and fell at Texas earlier in the season, but home-court advantage changes the expectations. Will a loaded backcourt be enough to lead Baylor past a Texas team playing like a legitimate Final Four contender?
Texas vs. Baylor Prediction & Pick
Texas is 4-4 on the road with wins over Oklahoma, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State. Only one of those teams is arguably near Baylor’s level, and the Longhorns only scored 69 points in that win over Kansas State.
As solid as Texas has been playing of late, both on the defensive end and offensively behind Sir’Jabari’s Rice’s surge, this feels like a bounce-back spot for Baylor. The Bears blew a big lead against Kansas and were again outplayed in the second half at Kansas State. They’re now back home, where they’re 13-2 and haven’t lost in seven weeks.
This seems like an opportunity for a big offensive performance, one that won’t end in a blown lead now that Baylor has its crowd in support. It’s a close call, but Baylor is in good position to win this one by a few points.
Texas vs. Baylor Key Matchups
Baylor’s shaky defense is going to be a major storyline heading into March. The Bears have looked unsteady on that end of the floor all season, and last weekend’s loss to Kansas exemplified the good and bad about this team. In the first half, Baylor looked like a title contender with an unstoppable offense. In the second half, the defense cratered.
Having home-court advantage helps here, but this defense will have its hands full against a loaded Texas offense. The Longhorns average nearly 80 points per game, shooting very efficiently on two-point shots.
Texas is short on dangerous three-point shooters, with Marcus Carr and Sir’Jabari Rice the only real threats from deep. That’s a bad matchup for Baylor, which defends the three well but has had some issues inside the arc (opponents are shooting 53.1% on two-point tries). Baylor will have to prevent Timmy Allen from taking advantage and scoring near the basket.
The most important task will be to slow down Carr, who’s averaging 17 points per game. Baylor did that last time these two played but was burned by Allen and Sir’Jabari Rice. Rice is becoming a huge part of Texas’ success. Now averaging 17.4 points over his last eight games, Rice has helped make the Longhorns’ backcourt one that can rival a backcourt as talented as Baylor’s.
When Baylor’s offense is on, it’s nearly unbeatable. There is no better collection of guards in the country than LJ Cryer, Adam Flagler, and Keyonte George. George has been outstanding lately, aside from a pair of slip-ups, scoring 20 points against both Kansas and Kansas State. Baylor’s frontcourt isn’t much of a factor on the offensive end, but the defense could help make up for it – especially with Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua back in the fold. Neither team rebounds particularly well, so his presence could be the difference.
Texas has a middle-of-the-road defense that will undoubtedly surrender a healthy amount of points against the trio of Baylor guards. George should have a better day than he did last time he faced Texas, but it’s been hard for Scott Drew to get George, Cryer, and Flagler all at their best in the same game. Against an offense as talented as Texas’, he’s going to need something close to that.