Baylor (5-2) at Wichita State (3-3)
When: 7 p.m. on Saturday
TV: CBS Sports Network (643 on Uverse, 260 on Cox, 221 on DirecTV, 158 on Dish)
Streaming: CBSSports.com (TV subscription required)
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Radio: 103.7 FM and GoShockers.com
Series history: WSU is 3-2 all-time against Baylor, including last season’s 69-62 win in Waco. The last time Baylor came to Wichita was Dec. 4, 1952 when freshman Cleo Littleon led the Shockers to a 93-59 victory at Henrion Gymnasium.
WSU ranking: No. 86 overall (No. 67 offense, No. 115 defense)
Baylor ranking: No. 58 overall (No. 84 offense, No. 54 defense)
Score prediction: Wichita State 71, Baylor 70
WSU’s winning odds: 55 percent
Coach: Scott Drew, 16th season, 300-197
Coach: Gregg Marshall, 12th season, 289-101
Baylor doesn’t have anywhere near the amount of young players as WSU, but it does have just about as many new players. Baylor finished 19-15 last season and ranks No. 290 in minutes continuity, a big reason why it was picked to finish ninth in the Big 12 preseason coaches poll. But Drew still deserves the benefit of the doubt: Baylor is one of nine programs to be nationally ranked each of the last 11 seasons and has produced six NBA players the last six seasons. But with basically only three back — King McClure, Tristan Clark and Mark Vital — from last season’s rotation, Drew had to hit the transfer market in the offseason. He recruited Baylor’s first graduate transfer in Makai Mason, a talented guard from Yale who was limited to just one game the last two years because of injury. Baylor also has transfers in Mario Kegler (Mississippi State) and Freddie Gillespie (Carleton), as well as junior-college transfers in Darius Allen (Palm Beach State) and Devonte Bandoo (Hutchinson). Baylor is stockpiled with talent with six former top-100 recruits on the roster. Baylor is off to a slow start to its non-conference season, as it lost a buy game to Texas Southern at home in the season-opener and lost to Ole Miss on a neutral court. The Bears had to rally late to stave off another home loss earlier this week in a 63-57 win over South Dakota.
Five keys for Wichita State
1. Limit Baylor’s damage on the offensive glass. Just like Gregg Marshall has done at WSU, Scott Drew has made Baylor an annual nightmare for opponents on the glass, especially at the offensive end. Baylor has finished in the top 10 nationally in offensive rebounding percentage for five straight seasons. The Bears aren’t loaded with their typical length, which has affected their ability to track down offensive rebounds some this season. But Baylor is still grabbing 36 percent of its own misses (No. 35 nationally) and should be a load for WSU to handle. The Shockers have struggled this season with athletic teams (Providence, Alabama and Louisiana Tech all rebounded at least 32 percent of their misses), so a key on Saturday will be to make sure everyone checks out when the shot goes up. Nothing is more deflating than playing good defense for 30 seconds, only to be undone by a missed box-out and offensive rebound.
2. Win the battle at the line in a potential foul-fest. Saturday’s matchup will bring together two of the most foul-prone defenses in the country. It’s not a coincidence WSU and Baylor are two of the most inexperienced teams as well. WSU is sending opponents to the free-throw line an astonishing 25 times per game, while Baylor isn’t far behind at 23 times. Opponents are scoring a quarter of their total points at the charity stripe against both teams, which ranks in the bottom 50 in the country. We could see 50-plus fouls on Saturday night, which might not be the most aesthetically pleasing game to watch, but one WSU can win if it makes its free throws. The Shockers started the season off by making an atrocious 51 percent of free throws in their first three games, but have since made 58 of 74 (78 percent) in the last three games. If that hot streak continues Saturday, WSU should gain an advantage cashing in on so many freebies.
3. Be smart when attacking the rim. Yes, Baylor fouls a lot. But the Bears swat shots better than any team in the country, as well. Baylor ranks first in block percentage, mainly because of No. 25 Tristan Clark, a 6-9 sophomore who has impeccable timing. Clark is averaging three blocks per game and his 12.8 block percentage ranks top-20 nationally. Blocks only tell part of the story with Clark, as he is affecting many, many more. Opponents are making just 44 percent of shots within five feet of the rim, an extremely low number. So Clark is altering a lot of shots in that vicinity. WSU senior Samajae Haynes-Jones has found success this season when driving by drawing the shot-blocking big and then making the dump-off pass to Morris Udeze or Jaime Echenique for the dunk. “We’re going to have to. be smart with how we attack him and have some intelligence and some IQ,” WSU assistant Lou Gudino told me. “We have to know when he’s back there, but at the same time you can’t be scared of him and intimidated because you’ve got to go at him.”
4. Stay attached to No. 3 King McClure on the perimeter. While WSU’s defense has upgraded in length and athleticism on the perimeter, WSU has to live with the freshmen mistakes of playing so many newcomers. WSU’s defense has been prone to momentary lapses or being a little too handsy early in the season. It’s likely a freshman, whether it be Dexter Dennis, Jamarius Burton or Erik Stevenson, will draw the assignment to defend the 6-foot-3 senior sharpshooter from Baylor. McClure is canning 44 percent of his three-point looks this season and is doing most of his damage with spot-up shots and in transition, another bugaboo for WSU’s defense. The Shockers have successfully contained shooters before (Davidson’s Kellan Grady), but they will need another locked-in effort to locate McClure and ensure he doesn’t get loose and burn WSU with more than three treys. “You’ve got to have a little more patience and you’ve got to show them over and over again because they’re not used to the college game,” Gudino said of the freshmen. “Every day you’re trying to make a couple less mistakes on an individual basis and that will help the team improve.”
5. Be ready to beat the zone from the outside. Baylor is playing much less zone than what is typical for a Scott Drew team. The Bears are actually playing 77 percent man defense so far this season, but Gudino noted that Drew still defaults to the 2-3 zone when Baylor absolutely needs stops. “When it’s time to win the game or they feel like they’re struggling, they’re going to go to it,” Gudino said. “They’re very efficient in it and they do a good job creating turnovers within the zone because it’s very aggressive and very extended.” Baylor’s defense is forcing opponents to run off over 18 seconds each possession, one of the best marks in the country, so WSU will have to work for its shots on Saturday. Opponents have made just 29 percent of their threes against Baylor, but much of that is due to the schedule. Open looks will be available. Markis McDuffie and Dexter Dennis have been the only consistent shooters with volume. Senior Samajae Haynes-Jones is making only 31 percent of his threes; Stevenson is shooting 32 percent on threes, but has made 8 of 14 at Koch Arena; Ricky Torres was a junior college All-American last season, but has missed all 11 threes he’s taken this season. If any one of those three players can step up for WSU on Saturday, the Shockers will at the very worst have a chance to win the game down the stretch.
Baylor hasn’t done much to this point in the season to impress me. The Bears lost a buy game to start the season, much like WSU. However, unlike the Shockers, which went on to. beat Providence, Baylor hasn’t had a redeeming victory. Maybe that comes Saturday, but I don’t think it happens.
A Saturday night date with the Shockers at Koch Arena isn’t exactly the smoothest transition a team can make playing in its first road game. WSU played much better with a week off to practice before the Rice game and with another week of practice this week, I’d expect WSU to once again come out strong against Baylor.
I like this matchup for senior Markis McDuffie to have a big game. Baylor doesn’t have anyone in its starting lineup with the length to disrupt McDuffie’s shot, so I wouldn’t be surprised if McDuffie has another good game shooting from the outside. As I mentioned above, Haynes-Jones, Stevenson and Torres are the X-Factors for WSU. I’m thinking Torres makes his first three of the season on Saturday night, as well.
I don’t see this game having much flow, as both teams are so prone to fouling. It’s going to be a grind-it-out game and I think that favors the Shockers at home. Wichita State 68, Baylor 64.