The Oklahoma Sooners’ flickering hopes for an NCAA tournament bid in Porter Moser’s first season as head coach have received a bump from conference tournament results this week. With other bubble teams like Wake Forest and Xavier bowing out early, the door has opened slightly more for OU. Still, if the Sooners (17-14) don’t beat Baylor (26-5) in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals in Kansas City on Thursday, they are NIT bound.
Big 12 Tournament Quarterfinal: No. 7 Oklahoma vs. No. 2 Baylor
March 10, T-Mobile Center (Kansas City, MO)
TV: ESPN, 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT
DraftKings Line: Baylor -7.5, O/U 133.5
(Odds/lines subject to change. Visit DraftKings for more information.)
The odds of OU knocking off Baylor don’t seem good, as seen in the healthy 7.5 point line favoring the Bears. The defending national champions are again playing like one of the top teams in the country in the last month, winning their final five games of the regular season. Baylor ranks fourth overall in the kenpom.com’s adjusted efficiency metric and likely has an inside track for a No. 1 seed when the brackets for the big dance are revealed on Sunday.
The two meetings between Baylor and OU this season didn’t go well for the Sooners, either. OU gave a game effort in game one, an 84-74 loss to the Bears in Waco on Jan. 4. Baylor throttled OU, 65-51, three weeks later at the Lloyd Noble Center.
To be fair, Baylor isn’t the same team the Sooners faced in January. The Bears subsequently lost forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and guard LJ Cryer to injury. Coach Scott Drew has primarily rolled with a six- or seven-player rotation since then. The depth issues leave the Bears somewhat susceptible to foul trouble, which played a role in their last loss to Texas Tech on Feb. 16. They generally avoid fouls, though, with a defensive free throw rate comfortably below the national average.
Fundamentally, the Bears pose a terrible matchup for OU because they are among the best teams in the country at forcing turnovers. Baylor ranks 17th nationally in defensive turnover percentage and 14th in defensive steal percentage, according to kenpom.com. Unfortunately, the Sooners give the rock away at one of the highest clips in the nation, checking in at 347th overall in offensive turnover percentage and 346th in offensive steal percentage.
The pressure will be on OU guard Jordan Goldwire Thursday to manage the flow of the offense and avoid giving the ball away to Baylor’s pesky defenders. If the Sooners can cut down on completely wasted offensive trips and keep the Bears out of transition, a win here isn’t out of the question. More likely, a gritty effort from OU falls short.
Prediction: Baylor 69, Oklahoma 62