TCU and Baylor met in Fort Worth in early January with each team looking for their first Big 12 win. Since then, the Bears have knocked off a trio of top 25 teams, improving to 4-4 on the season. The Frogs ended their long conference losing streak and look much improved, yet TCU is sitting at 1-7 in Big 12 play. I met up with dfank_BU from Our Daily Bears once again to discuss tonight's rematch. You can check out my responses to their questions right here.
1) Baylor looks significantly improved since the Bears visited Fort Worth in early January, picking up wins over #11 Iowa State, #19 Oklahoma, and #19 Texas. What has been the catalyst for Baylor's improvements since these two teams last met?
Baylor has been a dramatically better team in the friendly confines of the Ferrell Center during conference play, which is where all three of those big wins have occurred. When the Bears are able to get good ball movement and get open shots, they are more than capable of knocking them down. Baylor's top four 3 point shooters (Prince, Chery, O'Neale, Medford) are shooting 40.5% from behind the arc for the season. Couple that with a better than expected defense and a ferocious Rico Gathers on the boards and the Bears are a really tough team to deal with in Waco.
2) We're about half way through Big 12 play this season, and the Bears are sitting at 4-4, good for sixth place in the conference. Based on what we've seen so far, where do you see the Bears finishing this season? Has your perception changed since the beginning of the season?
Record-wise, Baylor is about where I expected them to be but the strength of the Big 12 has made a .500 conference record a significant accomplishment. The big catalyst for the Bears' success this year has been its defense. Baylor is the only team with a top 40 strength of schedule that has held every opponent under 75 points. They need to get some more consistent offensive production in the second half of conference play if they want to close out strong and get a high seed in the NCAAs. At worst, I think the Bears will probably sit somewhere around the .500 mark in the Big 12.
3) Tonight's contest falls in-between two big games for the Bears - a huge home victory over the Texas Longhorns last Saturday, and a trip to Morgantown this Saturday. How does Scott Drew motivate his guys so as to not overlook an improving TCU team? Or did last month's overtime game show the Bears that TCU can compete this year?
This is not a Baylor team loaded with blue chip talent so I don't think they can get away with overlooking anybody in the Big 12. Also, let's not forget that this is Baylor and TCU that we're talking about here. This may not be anything approaching the football rivalry but these two teams are aware of how much this game means to their respective fanbase. I could see this being a potential problem with some prior Baylor teams but I think the Bears will be ready to play on Wednesday night.
4) With the Big 12 featuring a double round robin format, each team gets to face every other team twice. Since this is the second time that Baylor and TCU will meet on the hardwood, who has the advantage in the rematch? Does this fall into Baylor's favor since the Bears were victorious in the first meeting? Or does TCU possess the upper hand since the Frogs know what adjustments they need to make to come away with a road win tonight?
I'm not sure that the rematch aspect gives either team a leg up, especially since the two teams combined to set the game of basketball back 50 years in the first meeting at Wilkerson-Greines. The big difference in this matchup as opposed to the first meeting is the venue. Baylor has just been a different team in the Ferrell Center than they've been on the road for whatever reason. The Bears are 16-1 in their last 17 home games, with 4 of those wins coming over teams ranked in the top 20. Baylor's offense tends to go as Kenny Chery and Royce O'Neale go and they both have shot the ball better in Waco than elsewhere. TCU needs to avoid the big, early run that Baylor has been capable of at home.
5.) Finally, who do you have walking away with a win tonight? Does TCU fix their problems and upset Baylor on the road? Or do the Bears continue to climb in the Big 12 standings with a win? (Bonus: Will there be more or less fouls committed tonight than the 53 we saw in Fort Worth in January?)
At 1-7 in the Big 12, TCU is the type of team that nobody wants any part of in February: a team good enough to beat you if you're not on your game but a loss that would look bad on an NCAA Tournament resume. At the end of the day, I just don't think TCU has enough offensive firepower to pull off the upset. This will be a close, physical game in the first half but I think the Bears pull away in the last 10 minutes or so. And holy hell, there better not be anywhere near that many fouls.
Baylor 72 TCU 61
Big thanks to dfank_BU, PocketChange, and the team at Our Daily Bears. Look for continued coverage of TCU vs. Baylor right here leading up to tonight's game.