Baylor prevented its week from falling into the pits of catastrophe as it outlasted Texas Tech 71-68 at home in overtime on Monday night to avoid its first losing streak of the season. The Bears fell on the road to TCU on Saturday and were on the ropes against a desperate Tech team, trailing for nearly 16 minutes of game action. But in overtime, the Bears went 2 of 4 from the field and knocked down all four free throw attempts that put the game on ice.
Texas Tech entered the night squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble — despite being ranked as recently as last week — due to a curious resume featuring a Quadrant 4-heavy body of work. As CBS Sports Bracketologist Jerry Palm noted earlier Monday: no team has ever received an at-large bid with a record three games below .500 against Quadrant 1-3 opponents — something Tech may be looking to do for the first time after falling to 10-12 against teams in those three categories with the loss.
Palm projected Baylor as a No. 1 seed with or without the win, and the victory at the least provides some cushion. Not only is its margin of error moving forward still there, but also its momentum is recaptured. The Bears were No. 1 for five straight weeks and rode a 23-game winning streak spanning from mid-November to mid-February before taking losses to Kansas and TCU in a span of three games to close out February.
Let’s recap the game with three takeaways.
1. Baylor has the goods, shorthanded: Given Baylor’s recent run, a win over Texas Tech — regardless of venue or the style with which it won — is huge, but especially so given where its roster was at and what Scott Drew had available to him. The Bears were without defensive stalwart and glue guy Mark Vital as well as talented forward Tristan Clark — both dealing with knee injuries — and still managed to escape with the W. The Bears shot 10 of 24 from the 3 to overcome their losses, and Devonte Bandoo, who was injected into the starting lineup due to the injuries, led the team with 18 points. He made four of his five 3-point attempts and had 15 of his 18 in the second half to keep Baylor punching.
2. Texas Tech’s turnover problem: What do Texas State, North Texas, Texas, Houston, Rice, SMU and Texas Arlington all have in common? They’re all programs in the state of Texas that commit fewer turnovers than Texas Tech. The Red Raiders have been able to combat this weakness with elite defense, great shooting and generally being well-coached, but not on this night. They committed 20 (!) total turnovers, leading directly to 16 Baylor points.
3. The Red Raiders can win in March: This obviously applies to Baylor, too, who has the goods to win it all, but Tech mustn’t be ignored. Sure, the resume is suspect and, yes, it has had plenty of chances to avoid that becoming the case. But Chris Beard’s club can clip any team on the right night, so I’m here for this team joining the field of 68. It can win multiple games in the tournament this year. Maybe this is ultimately a really good NIT team and not a trendy March spoiler, but if Baylor cab get a bid, I’ll be amongst the handful of believers that this team can do more than just go one-and-done.