Baylor Bears (15-10) at Texas Longhorns (15-10)
We picked up an easy win in a tough spot last night when we backed the Penn State Nittany Lions on the road in a Big 10 conference game against the Fighting Illini of Illinois. The first half was a very competitive one, with Penn State leading by just one point at the half. The Nittany Lions absolutely dominated the second half, and this game eventually got a little out of hand as Penn State ended up winning 74-52 in a blowout and easily covered the -2.5-point spread.
I hate taking road favorites in league play, but Illinois is garbage, and this Penn State team might just be something special this season. Don’t be shocked if we see this Penn State team still playing during the second weekend of March Madness. Today I will shift focus to the Big 12 and look at the matchup between two teams that badly need a win tonight when the Baylor Bears play the Texas Longhorns.
The Baylor Bears will take the short trip to Austin to play the Longhorns of Texas Monday night. Baylor finds itself squarely on the bubble at the moment and would love a big road victory tonight to secure the season sweep of inter-state rival Texas. Baylor has won three straight games, including a dominating 80-64 win over the Kansas Jayhawks in their last game.
Texas is in a very similar position as Baylor as they find themselves sitting right at the cut line for the NCAA tournament. The Longhorns must protect their home court tonight, or they could find themselves on the wrong side of the bubble on selection Sunday. Texas is -3-point favorites. The game total over-under is set at 134 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00 PM PST from the Frank Erwin Center.
The Texas Longhorns have not been great on the road this season, especially in conference play. They dropped games to Baylor, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Texas Tech, and TCU on the road already this year. But when given the opportunity to play in Austin this has been a completely different team. The Longhorns hold wins over TCU, Texas Tech, Iowa State, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.
It is almost like the Longhorns are two separate teams at home and on the road. That happens to a lot of schools. And it happens, even more, when your best player is a true freshman like Texas’ best player Mo Bamba. Young guys just play better at home where they are more comfortable. The Longhorns must protect their home court tonight as they have lost three out of their last four games and can ill afford to drop a game to an average Baylor team.
After this game, the Longhorns must pay Oklahoma, K-State, and Kansas all on the road and they will host Oklahoma State and West Virginia. There aren’t too many wins left on the schedule for Texas, they must have this one tonight, or they could get left out in March.
Baylor is very much in the same position as Texas. Great at home, bad on the road. The Bears are playing themselves onto the bubble and beating Kansas last week was a huge step in the right direction. The Bears still have a lot of work left to do, as they have a murderous finish to the schedule and wins are going to be tough to find the rest of the way out.
Baylor plays Texas Tech, West Virginia, TCU, Oklahoma, and Kansas State in their last five games. They will be underdogs in all of those games. They will have to win a couple of those games if they want to play in the NCAA tournament. Lots of hard work lies ahead for the Baylor Bears. Luckily, they are playing well at the moment, having won three straight games.
This is a classic conference play situation. The two teams already met once, and the home team won. Now the script is flipped, and they get to play on the other team’s floor, and you have to wonder, how much difference does the home court advantage make? That is an easy answer. It makes a huge difference!
Both of these teams have been elite at home and garbage on the road. When you take a quick look at the box score of when these two teams matched up in Waco on January 6th, you can see the Bears got a very home court friendly called game. The Bears shot 16-21 from the charity stripe, while Texas shot just 4-5 from the line. And that was the difference in the game, as Baylor won 69-60. I doubt the Bears are going to get that same level of charity from the zebras tonight in Austin.
If conference basketball I am always going to naturally defer towards the home team. Home court advantage is huge, and even the bad teams tend to protect their home court at a much higher rate than most people would think. I will continue that trend tonight.
I expect a close game, these two teams are fairly evenly matched, but I think Texas will be able to avenge the road loss from earlier this season, just like they did against TCU and Texas Tech, two very good teams. Give me the Longhorns tonight at home -3-points in a competitive game, feels like 68-60.