Saturday NCAAB Odds, Picks & Predictions for Arkansas vs Baylor (Jan. 28)
Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images. Pictured: Keyonte George (Baylor)
Arkansas vs Baylor Odds
-115o / -105u
-115o / -105u
The SEC/Big 12 Challenge is here, as No. 17 Baylor welcomes Arkansas inside the Ferrell Center.
After a strong non-conference featuring wins against UCLA and Gonzaga, Baylor lagged behind to begin Big 12 play by losing three straight games. The Bears have since rebounded and enter this one on a five-game win streak.
Arkansas has won two straight of its own and looks to continue its hot streak after a four-game skid in mid-January. The Razorbacks opened SEC play with a 1-5 record, including losses to LSU and Vanderbilt.
Can Baylor take home the win on its home floor, or will Arkansas’ physicality and aggression prove to be too much?
Few teams have had as poor injury luck in the power conferences than Arkansas.
The Razorbacks lost sophomore Trevon Brazile for the season (ACL), while freshman Nick Smith Jr. has battled a knee injury and hasn’t played since Dec. 17. Smith remains out without a surefire timetable.
Arkansas has since struggled without two of its top four scorers. Wichita State transfer Ricky Council IV has taken full reigns of the offense, while freshman Anthony Black has grown into his own as a do-it-all floor general.
This Arkansas team is relatively one-sided. It’s extremely athletic and relies on using its physicality and quickness to finish at the rim.
The Razorbacks are abysmal from 3 — 316th in 3-point% — and struggle in isolation. Their success jumps a half-point per possession in transition compared to the half-court, per ShotQuality, preferring to push the offense and attack before defenses can get set.
While Eric Musselman’s squad draws fouls at the 31st-highest rate in the country, the Razorbacks’ aggression also translates negatively on the defensive end.
For a team that lacks depth due to injury, Arkansas ranks 308th in FTA/FGA.
Discipline and foul trouble have become an issue before and in a close game — like vs. Missouri this past Wednesday — it will spell doom. Four players fouled out for Arkansas while Council had four.
This is an extremely long and disruptive Arkansas defense, however. It disrupts passing lanes and forces turnovers at a high rate. Also, it’s 13th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency.
The duo of Makhi and Makhel Mitchell have proven vital to Arkansas’ rim protection and aggression on the glass.
Aside from its aggression that often leads to fouls, Arkansas’ defense has a few other flaws. It’s a subpar team when defending the pick-and-roll and is 254th in off-the-dribble 3s, per ShotQuality.
The Razorbacks rank 242nd in shot selection and all the way down at 315 in open 3 rate.
That suggests negative regression is on the horizon for this Razorbacks defense that hasn’t been burned by their over-aggression and lack of close outs.
After an 0-3 start to Big 12 play, Baylor has ripped off five straight wins and enters off a strong win against Kansas.
Baylor’s offense is made up of its three-headed monster of Keyonte George, Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer.
George is the key cog and the primary shot creator — he takes 30.8% of shots while on the floor — while Flagler and Cryer have been perfect complements and lights out from the perimeter.
This is the No. 2 offense in adjusted efficiency, per KenPom, and as expected, the Bears’ damage is done from 3. They shoot 45.1% of all field goal attempts from beyond the arc.
But that’s not what makes this Baylor offense so deadly.
This is the No. 8 offensive rebounding team in the country and despite a lack of consistent size, the Bears’ aggression and knack for finding the ball has also translated to a top-25 free-throw rate.
This isn’t the same defensive-savvy team like in years past, but Scott Drew’s team is due for some slight positive regression. Baylor ranks 10th in half-court defense and prefers to slow the pace down to get into its sets.
Take a peek at the Bears’ ShotQuality chart: they’re dominant in the mid-range (8th), pick-and-roll (29th), on cuts (9th) and out of the post (6th).
Even defending finishes at the rim, they’re top-50.
The issue is the Bears have struggled to clean up on the defensive glass, where they rank 220th, and like Arkansas, they can run into foul trouble themselves.
From an efficiency perspective, they struggle defending the perimeter. But against an Arkansas team that can’t shoot 3s, this shouldn’t be an issue.
On the promising side, Baylor does rank 59th in defensive shot selection and does force turnovers at a near-top-50 rate. As long as foul trouble doesn’t remain an issue, the Bears should be able to combat Arkansas’ aggression inside and take advantage of mistakes.
We’ve seen teams deploy a zone against Arkansas, and the Razorbacks have struggled against that. The same could ring true here, depending on how the game progresses.
Arkansas vs. Baylor Betting Pick
I’m not sure Arkansas is equipped to beat Baylor. While the Bears’ interior defense runs into occasional issues without Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, the Razorbacks’ best offensive threats are guards and wings.
This is a great spot for Baylor to continue rolling at home. It played exceptionally well against Kansas in its last time out, and its three-headed monster is perfectly suited to break down this Arkansas defense.
If Arkansas falls into foul trouble early, this could very well be a double-digit beat down by Baylor. We’ve seen it happen before with Musselman’s squad, losing by double-digits to Auburn and Vanderbilt — two below-average offense.
Now they draw George, Flagler and Cryer, all of whom have been great on the offensive end. George will command a lot of attention and that’ll open plenty of open shots for Flagler and Cryer.
Baylor has the edge on the offensive end, and I expect the Bears to roll behind a raucous home crowd and extend their winning streak.
Pick: Baylor -6
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