Coming into the season, Baylor was swimming in hype. The Bears were coming off a phenomenal year, highlighted by a run to the Elite Eight where they lost to eventual National Champion, Duke. While they lost senior Tweety Carter and junior Ekpe Udoh, Perry Jones III brought enough hype with him to Waco to replace both. Pair Jones with LaceDarius Dunn, the current Big 12 scoring leader, and why wouldn't Baylor be a lock to contend for the Big 12 title?
However, things didn't quite go according to plan, as the Bears started the season against horrific competition but staggered against better opponents. I actually think the quality of Baylor's nonconference schedule had a very big impact on its ability to beat good teams. The very long zone the Bears like so much has been pretty ineffective against teams in the Big 12, but its weaknesses went unnoticed during nonconference play (where Scott Drew normally would have had time to see potential flaws and make adjustments). People have a tendency to blame AJ Walton for this year's debacle. And it's true that he's no Tweety Carter, but it's also true that Perry Jones hasn't been the defensive stopper Udoh was last season either.
Essentially Baylor struggles with efficiency because it gives up too many open shots on defense, and LaceDarius Dunn is often forced to take ill-advised contested jumpers on offense. Does that mean the Bears aren't dangerous? No, not at all. On the contrary, every team in the Big 12 should be terrified that this team might finally put things together and cause major headaches in the conference tournament (they certainly have the talent to do it).
More after the jump.
First up for the Bears is Oklahoma. The Sooners' season has been a total train wreck so far. That said, the Sooners did take care of Baylor in Norman this year. Still, Oklahoma has lost eight of its last nine. However, Oklahoma's wins have come in bunches this season, so maybe it's due for another victory.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Oklahoma win, just because I think Baylor may lose focus with the NIT looking all but guaranteed at this point. But picking Oklahoma to win outside of Norman is playing a risky game with fate (the Sooners are a smooth 1-10 on the road this season, including a loss to a Division II school). Really, I'm not sure either team is going to have its head totally in this game unless Pat Knight's firing has Jeff Capel overly concerned about his own future.
The game is Wednesday at 6:00 PM on the Big 12 Network. Prediction: Baylor 64 - Oklahoma 59