Baylor will put the nation’s longest winning streak on the line as the defending national champions face Oklahoma in a Big 12 showdown on Tuesday night in Waco. Which team is the right college basketball pick?
At 13-0, the Bears are one of three remaining undefeated teams in college basketball and have won 19 straight going back to last season’s national championship run. They are coming off of a five-point win at Iowa State in their Big 12 opener, which was the closest game Baylor has played this year and just the third time an opponent has come within single digits of the Bears. Baylor has been battle-tested this year, with wins over Michigan State and Villanova, as well as power conference opponents Stanford, Arizona State, and Oregon.
Oklahoma is 11-2 and has won four straight games, including a two-point win over Kansas State in the conference opener. The Sooners lost by three to Utah State and in overtime to Butler, and they boast wins over Florida and Arkansas already this season. Are they the right pick at the top-rated sportsbooks?
Oklahoma Sooners vs. Baylor Bears
Tuesday, January 04, 2022 – 07:00 PM EST at Ferrell Center
Battling Baylor and Omicron
Oklahoma has been hit by the recent COVID outbreak that has impacted people across the nation and worldwide. The Sooners were without three key contributors for the Kansas State game, with senior forward Tanner Groves, freshman guard Bijan Cortes and junior forward Jacob Groves all missing the contest after entering the protocol.
Jacob Groves has already been cleared to return for the game against Baylor. He averages 13.5 minutes per game off the bench and scores 3.5 ppg. The team is still awaiting word on the other two. Cortes averages 9.7 minutes and 1.6 ppg. The older Groves is a starter and the leading scorer for the Sooners at 14.3 ppg. He also adds 6.0 rebounds and hits more than 40% of his three-point attempts.
“We have a couple more questions we have to answer,” head coach Porter Moser said of the two players still in question. “But they're out of their five-day quarantine window and we'll know more (on game day).”
Rick Issanza started in place of Groves last time out, the first change to Moser’s lineup this season. Guards Umoja Gibson and Elijah Harkless both had big games to help make up for the missing production.
Rare Game Pressure
Baylor found itself in an unfamiliar predicament last time out, needing to perform in a close game in the waning minutes. With a string of blowouts this season, the Iowa State game was the first nailbiter for the Bears since March. Baylor lost to Oklahoma State in the conference tournament, then won its next 18 by at least 8 points.
"We haven't had a lot of one-possession or two-possession games," said coach Scott Drew. "We got some pressure free throws, which we haven't had in a while. We got a chance to work on end-of-game stuff and since then practiced on end-of-game stuff, make sure that our guys have enough reps with that."
The first test didn’t go so well. Baylor missed four free throws and turned it over four times as Iowa State went on a 9-0 run to cut things uncomfortably close.
Baylor also struggled with foul trouble in the game and had several players in unfamiliar spots down the stretch, which may have contributed to the problems.
Despite all Baylor’s non-conference success, Big 12 conference play is a different animal, as the Bears began to learn last time out. Oklahoma at full strength is a better team than Iowa State and should give Baylor a test at home. The Sooners may not pull out the win, but they should keep it in single digits for the NCAAB odds.
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