Warning: Please, Do NOT continue reading if you are currently a head coach in the Big 12 Basketball conference.
The Baylor Bears have had great success in the Big 12 thus far, tied for third in the conference after a rocky start to their season. Despite the loss of arguably their best player Tristan Clark, the Bears continue to gut out wins over top end competition, beating #20 Iowa State and #8 Texas Tech at the beginning of conference play. They’ve since become even more comfortable as a team, obliterating good teams en route to a six-game winning streak that lasted through the end of January. They keep winning, but how?
Maybe we’re asking the wrong question.
Instead of trying to understand why the Bears win a game, we’re going to look at why they lose.
So, without further ado, here is how to beat the Baylor Bears.
Shot Fake hard and often
Baylor is one of the best shot blocking teams in the nation at a notch over five swats a game. This becomes a troubling statistic for opposing coaches to game-plan for. Scott Drew’s focus on help defense makes it tough to get easy buckets in the lane. So how do you counteract the Bears’ length on defense? There are a few things to keep in mind when game planning.
- Many of these blocks came from Tristan Clark, who is now on the injured reserve for the remainder of the season. This inflates the overall ranking, as he has only been inactive for a fraction of the Bears’ games. That being said, backup bigs that have been put in higher usage roles such as Flo Thamba and Freddie Gillespie have shown good awareness in shot blocking as their roles have increased.
- Baylor is a young team. Many young teams may be talented but remain undisciplined. This maxim holds true with the Bears, who have committed a whopping 389 fouls through 21 games on the season.
If teams were to pump fake shot attempts, and thus tempt the Bears into jumping for blocks, opposing players would get to the free throw line often. However, if the Bears were to remain disciplined on shot fakes, it becomes extremely hard to score over their length. As a rival team, all you can do is shot fake and then hope for the best.
Compete on the Boards
The most common barometer for winning a basketball game is winning the rebound battle.
When matching up with Baylor, it becomes even more important. The Bears rank in at #22 in the nation in rebound margin, averaging 6.6 more rebounds than their opponents. They jump into the top 15 when only accounting for offensive rebounds, with almost twelve a game.
In their two recent losses to Texas and Kansas State , they tied the Longhorns and were slightly outrebounded by the Wildcats. In fact, Before they were out rebounded against Kansas State on Saturday night, the Bears hadn’t lost a rebounding battle since Dec. 1 to Wichita State, which was, unsurprisingly, a loss.
The key here is to limit second chances. Giving up almost 7 offensive rebounds is essentially giving the Bears 7 shots right next to the rim. If teams can hold the rebounding margin to a minimum, they will effectively neutralize one of the Bears most efficient scoring strategies.
Own the Three Point Line
Perhaps the most important piece of the equation to beating Baylor is owning the three-point line. This means being offensively efficient from beyond the arc, while also limiting the Bears’ three-point efficiency in the process.
In losses, the Bears are 17.467% worse from three than their opponent. The people who beat the Bears protect the three-point line well, while shooting three pointers well themselves on the other end.
Take the Bears’ January 12thloss to the Kansas Jayhawks at home as a case study. The two teams had the same number of turnovers. Baylor demolished the Jayhawks on the boards, out rebounding them 49 to 30. However, the three-point percentage margin, 56.3 for Kansas to 29.0 for Baylor, proved fatal. On total field goal percentage the Bears were outpaced by 21%, but the number leapt up to 27% when focusing only on three pointers. The Jayhawks owned the three-point line, and ended up with the W.
However, in their six-game win streak during January, the Bears have made 29 more threes than opponents. Twenty-Nine. That number’s good for almost five more made three pointers per gamethan the other team. When they shoot often and efficiently, the Bears become deadly beyond the arc. The three-point line is what saved them in their most recent win over Oklahoma at home, where the Bears shot 46% from deep as opposed to the Sooners 19%.
As we can see, the Bears more or less live and die by the three pointers. This strategy has twofold consequences. If the Bears get hot from beyond the arc, they become a deadly team that no one wants to see in the tournament. However, If threes are not falling, they could be on upset alert come March.
And that’s how to take down the Bears. They’re tough, well coached, and play with no individual agendas. If teams can commit to all three rules, however, they may just have a shot.
Let’s hope they don’t though.