Baylor at Missouri preview

Baylor at No. 20 Missouri – 8 p.m. ESPN2

These two programs need wins for different reasons. Missouri (21-6, 7-5) could use a win or two to solidify its already likely NCAA berth and improve seeding. Additionally, the Tigers hope for a bye in the Big 12 Tournament. Baylor’s loss to Texas Tech over the weekend has put pressure on the Bears (17-9, 6-6) to get back  on track before the league tourney.

A.J. Walton and Baylor could get a valuable win tonight at Missouri. Source: Lawrence Journal-World

BAYLOR: How does a team with three major players who shoot above 50% average only 71 points per game? Perhaps it’s because those guys don’t get enough attempts? Guards LaceDarius Dunn and A.J. Walton take plenty of shots themselves, but upon a closer look, both shoot over a satisfactory 40%.

The more likely explanation comes from assists and turnovers. The Bears have a roughly 4:5 assist to turnover ratio on the season. Most winning teams in a given game have more assists than turnovers. This is troubling because a team as athletic as Baylor, with so many strong shooters, should score a lot more points. Turnovers are hurting, including the 16 Baylor committed while hosting Texas Tech (compared to just 10 assists).

The Texas Tech game was the team’s third silly conference loss of the season, following an early matchup at Iowa State (the Cyclones haven’t won another league game) and a game at Oklahoma on February 2.

Baylor should outrebound Missouri, because that’s a weakness for the Tigers, but Missouri is strong at forcing turnovers and capitalizing on them. If Baylor is sloppy again, don’t expect Missouri to lose its first home game of the season.

MISSOURI: The Tigers have been in take-care-of-business mode lately, winning home games against OU and Texas Tech and a road game (finally!) at Iowa State. They didn’t look great in the Tech or I-State games, but we’ve seen some good signs. Laurence Bowers is hitting his jump shots, and Marcus Denmon bounced back with a huge game against the Cyclones (26 points). Freshman Phil Pressey continues his strong play at point guard.

Again, Missouri needs to rebound to prevent a Baylor upset. Ricardo Ratliffe and Laurence Bowers shoulder much of this responsibility, but contributions from Justin Safford and even Kim English, the tallest guard, would help.

Missouri has put itself in strong postseason position almost entirely by winning home games – all of them. The Tigers are the only remaining Big 12 team undefeated at home. For whatever reason, opponents’ turnovers increase dramatically in Columbia, and teams seem to tire out much more quickly than at other sites (ask Colorado and Iowa State).

Bottom Line

Time is running out for Baylor. For every upset loss, you need an upset win. The Bears have chances against Mizzou, Texas A&M and Texas. I expect Baylor to be competitive and make the Tigers work for baskets, but I don’t think that’ll be enough. Home sweet Mizzou Arena.

Missouri 83, Baylor 70

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