On Saturday, Baylor may have lost a chance to at least share the Big 12 Conference regular season title.
On Monday night, the No. 2 Bears get an opportunity to wash the taste of a bitter defeat out of their system when they host No. 22 Texas Tech in Waco, Texas.
Baylor will be aiming for a season sweep of the suddenly struggling Red Raiders. It will also be shooting for a win that could eventually help it secure a cherished No. 1 regional seed for the NCAA Tournament later this month.
The Bears (25-3, 14-2) weren’t expected to stumble at TCU Saturday. But with the Horned Frogs’ best player, Desmond Bane, leading the charge by scoring 19 of his game-high 23 points in the second half, Baylor couldn’t hold on to an 11-point lead and fell 75-72 in Fort Worth.
“We’ve got to control what we can control,” Bears coach Scott Drew said. “People probably thought we would have won here today. That’s the Big 12. Normally, what makes the Big 12 so good, is it’s so hard to win on the road. TCU showed you that today.”
Baylor was unbeaten in conference road games going into TCU. In fact, the Bears hadn’t lost a road game of any kind prior to Saturday. Aside from a home loss on Feb. 22 to No. 1 Kansas, their only other defeat was a neutral-site setback to Washington in November in Alaska.
And while Baylor’s seeding probably won’t take a hit as a result of a loss to a 16-13 opponent, there are those now wondering if this team isn’t ripe for a first weekend upset in the NCAA Tournament. The Bears have been stout on defense all season, but are also prone to occasional scoring droughts. That can ruin a season in a win-or-die setting.
A lack of offensive punch has also been a reason why Texas Tech (18-11, 9-7) will likely fall out of the Top 25 on Monday, and why its status as an NCAA Tournament lock may be in question.
The Red Raiders’ 68-58 home loss Saturday to surging Texas was their second straight and third in five games. Add a regular season finale with Kansas to this game and they could easily have a four-game losing streak going into the conference tournament, unless they can get their offense going again.
Texas Tech is averaging 72.4 points per game, but has been held under that mark in six of its last eight games.
“Our season is on the line,” guard Davide Moretti said of the coming week. “I feel like we’ve got to come out ready. We’ve got to find our consistency because I feel like now our back is against the wall and we’ve got to bounce back. That’s the first thing we’ve got to focus on.”
The teams’ first meeting on Jan. 7 in Lubbock was an offense-challenged affair that Baylor pulled out 57-52, holding the Red Raiders to 37 percent shooting and only five bench points.
–Field Level Media