The Butler Bulldogs continue a brutal non-conference schedule Tuesday night when they visit the Baylor Bears in Waco, Texas.
Raise your hand if you had Butler in the preseason top 25. Liar. The Bulldogs are currently 9-0, ranked No. 13 in Kenpom and No. 18 in the AP Poll.
Senior guard Kamar Baldwin is making a run towards the Big East Player of the Year honors after a preseason that was dominated by Myles Powell and Markus Howard debate. Head coach LaVall Jordan may have started to feel a little heat in his seat before the season and has responded emphatically.
Upperclassmen Jordan Tucker and Sean McDermott have shot the ball well while the Bryces (Nze and Golden) have played well in the forward slots.
No. 11 Baylor continues to be one of the most successful and consistently overlooked programs in the country. Scott Drew is now in his 17th season in Waco. Last season was the first time that Baylor did not make an appearance in the Top 25 since 2006-07, and it was still able to make the NCAA Tournament.
This season, the Bears are led by sophomore Jared Butler, a 6-3 sharpshooting guard, and MaCio Teague, a transfer from UNC-Asheville. Butler is pouring in 19 points per game while Teague has not let the change in schools affect him, averaging 15.4 points and five rebounds per game.
Tristan Clark, who is returning from a knee injury, is currently fighting a foot issue. The 6-9 forward averaged 14.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 14 games last season.
Baylor is a 5.5-point favorite at home, with the over/under for this game set at 130.5.
How Do You Hunt A Bear?
The answer is with dogs. You send dogs into his cave and root him out, and that is exactly what Butler is going to have to do in this game. The Bulldogs have to go into Waco and make Baylor play their game. The only problem is, both teams play a similar style.
The Bulldogs are going to want to slow it way down and execute on offense. Baylor isn’t exactly an uptempo team, but Butler is one of the slowest in the country. You can’t let Baylor’s athletes get out in transition.
The Bulldogs shouldn’t have a problem with that as they are one of the best teams in the country at non-steal turnovers. They are also 13th-best in the country in overall turnover percentage. Jordan’s group is looking for its fifth consecutive win over a Power 6 school, with three of them already coming away from home. Butler is already a very good 6-2-1 ATS this season, and six of their nine games have gone under.
More Grizzly Than Koala
If you would have said before the season that Clark would only be averaging five points per game and hobbled by a foot injury a month into the season, most would have written Baylor off. Instead, Drew has found a way.
It should also be noted that Drew lost Mario Kegler right before the season began, who was going to be a huge part of this team. Simply put, Drew is a hell of a coach.
Baylor is 5-3 ATS on the season and already owns wins over Arizona and Villanova on a neutral floor.
Pick and Prediction
The obvious play here is the under, as I doubt both teams get to 60. This is going to be a slow, grind-it-out rock fight that will be decided by who can execute and who can make free throws. Both teams shoot over 72 percent from the line, so there is no clear advantage there.
Butler has the best player in the game in Baldwin, but on the road in Waco, against a team that hasn’t been traveling, the Bulldogs are due for a loss. However, they will cover the 5.5.
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