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Men’s Basketball Preview: #19 Baylor

The Frogs look to move to 2-0 in Big 12 play on the road in Waco.

NCAA Basketball: Texas Tech at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Frogs are 1-0 in conference play after a solid win over Texas Tech at home last Saturday 67-61. Mike Miles has played like the Big 12 player of the year he was picked to be this offseason as he took over late against the Red Raiders and finished with 23 points, 3 assists, a steal, and a block. Winning on the road is very tough in college basketball and the Frogs will be going on the road to face a Baylor team desperate for a solid win coming off of a 15-point loss to Iowa State. A win in Waco would be a big resume boost for the Frogs to steal a conference road win early in the season and remain undefeated in conference play.

January 4th vs. #19 Baylor (-6) 8:00 pm CST ESPN 2

The Bears are 10-3 this season and 0-1 in Big 12 play after a 77-62 loss in Ames to the Cyclones. Their 3 losses have been to good teams in top 25 ranked Virginia, 12-4 Marquette, and Iowa State. Their best two wins were a 5 point victory over the now #10 ranked UCLA Bruins and a 1 point win over the now #9 ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs. Baylor is led by senior guard Adam Flagler, averaging the most points per game of his career with 16.5 and the most assists per game of his career with 5. Flagler takes care of the basketball very well for a high usage rate player as he only averages 1.8 turnovers per game, with over a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. The Bears have two other great ball handlers in LJ Cryer and former top ten overall recruit, true freshman Keyontae George. Cryer has followed up a good sophomore season with an even better junior year, averaging more points, rebounds, and assists per game. He has been a bit less efficient than last season but that was to be expected as he has taken on more responsibilities in the offense. Cryer missed the Iowa State game due to a concussion and is questionable to play against the Frogs. George is a very talented scorer averaging over 15 points per game this season but has shown room for improvement as he has only shot 37.8 percent from the field and 33.7 percent from 3 while having almost a 1:1 assist to turnover-ratio. Scott Drew has done an excellent job at Baylor of finding do it all guards who can defend, shoot, pass, and handle the ball at a high level whether it was Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler, or James Akinjo running the show. This year is no different and Mike Miles and Damion Baugh will face their toughest challenge in terms of opposing guard play so far this season. Micah Peavy is a key player for the Frogs in this game as he will need to have a good game for TCU to win. He is the best perimeter defender Jamie Dixon has at his disposal and will be tasked with slowing down this impressive guard trio for the Bears. Expect Rondel Walker to potentially get more minutes than Shahada Wells against the Bears as he is the better defender of the two and the Frogs will need all the backcourt defense they can get. Mike Miles and Damion Baugh will need to be smart with the ball to limit turnovers against the solid defense from the Bears’ guards. Baylor is led in the frontcourt by senior Flo Thamba who is averaging 4.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game on 63.3 percent shooting from the field. The Bears rebound decently as a team, ranked 55th in the nation in total rebound margin. One weakness the Frogs should look to take advantage of is the Bears defensive rebounding that ranks 261st in the nation in terms of defensive rebounds per game. The Frogs rank 20th in the nation in offensive rebounding and should look to crash the offensive boards a lot in this game to create second chances for their offense that sometimes struggles in the half court. If the Frogs are able to get stops consistently on defense and get out and run in transition I think they can absolutely win this game on the road especially with their ability to crash the offensive glass agaisnt a Baylor team that has struggled rebounding defensively at times this season. This is an excellent opportunity for Miles and Baugh to improve their draft stock as they will be facing off against a very strong backcourt rotation from the Bears and I think they will be up to the task as they have both been playing very well and have learned how to play off of each other this season.

Prediction: TCU 73 Baylor 68