Baylor Bears vs. Arkansas Razorbaacks College Basketball Preview and Pick

Baylor Bears (9-1 SU, 3-1 ATS) vs. Arkansas Razorbacks (7-5 SU, 1-4 ATS), 9:00 p.m. EST, Wednesday, December 30, 2009, Verizon Arena, North Little Rock, Ark. TV: ESPN2
by Ryno of

Point Spread: Baylor -3.5/Arkansas +3.5
Over/Under: 142.

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After missing the NCAA tournament last season and losing leading scorer Curtis Jerrells, the Baylor Bears weren’t expected to be much of a factor in the Big 12 this season. BUT, they are off to an impressive 9-1 start and are looking to add another non-conference victory to their resume when the Bears face the Arkansas Razorbacks on Wednesday.

Baylor’s lone loss this season was by three points to Alabama in Orlando in the Old Spice Classic. In that same tournament, Baylor grabbed victories over Iona (in overtime) and Xavier (by five). The Bears also won a tough game, 64-61, at Arizona State in their lone true road game. This game against Arkansas will not be at Arkansas’s home arena but instead at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock. This will give Baylor, which has a 3-1 neutral/road record this season, a little better chance of winning the game with it not being a real home game for the Razorbacks.

Since nice victories over Xavier and Arizona State away from home, Baylor has won its last two games by 30 or more points at home over Jackson State and Texas Arlington. The Bears have had nine days off to prepare for this game.

Arkansas has had a rocky season with suspensions and injuries. Playing with the hand they’ve been dealt, the Razorbacks lost five of their first seven games, including four in a row overall and three in a row at home. But since losing games to Louisville, Morgan State, East Tennessee State, South Alabama and Oklahoma, Arkansas has won five straight games, all at home, over Mississippi Valley State, Delaware State, Alabama State, Stephen F. Austin and Missouri State. The first four of those are nothing to brag about, but in their last game the Razorbacks gave Missouri State its first loss of the season with an impressive overtime victory.

Rotnei Clarke hit the big shots late in the game in the win over Missouri State, and he’s been doing that all season long. Clarke is one of the best 3-point shooters in the country, shooting 52.9 percent from beyond the arc, shooting 54 percent from the field, and making more than two thirds of his shots from 3-point range. He is leading the team in scoring with 19.8 points per game and is making more than four 3-pointers per game.

Baylor has some big guards like LaceDarius Dunn and Nolan Dennis that it can throw at Clarke to disrupt his outside shots. Baylor is allowing opponents to make 35 percent of their 3-point attempts.

Arkansas also has a couple of capable big men in 6-foot-7 freshman Marshawn Powell and 6-foot-9 senior Michael Washington. Both are averaging around 14 points and six rebounds per game and are shooting 50 percent or better from the field.

Dunn and Tweety Carter are both scoring more than 17 points per game to lead the Bears. Carter is dishing out 6.2 assists per game and shooting 42.9 percent from beyond the arc. Like Carter, Dunn is making more than three 3-pointers per game but he is shooting a modest 36 percent from out there.

Baylor is a guard-oriented team but Ekpe Udoh, a 6-foot-10 transfer from Michigan, has been very good down low for the Bears on both ends of the court. He is averaging 14.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game.

With Udoh in the middle and the athleticism of Baylor’s guards, the Bears are out-rebounding their opponents by nearly 10 rebounds per game this season. Arkansas has just one more rebound per game than its opponents, so rebounding could be a big issue in this game as long as Udoh and 7-foot center Josh Lomers stay out of foul trouble.

Arkansas hasn’t had many lined games this season. The Razorbacks won their last game ATS over Missouri State in overtime but had no other lined games in the four games before that. Baylor has covered in its last three games over Arizona State, Xavier and Iona.

Arkansas is 5-15 ATS in its last 20 games against the Big 12. Baylor is 6-2 ATS in its last eight non-conference games. The over is 4-0 in Arkansas’s last four games following an ATS win and 4-0 in Baylor’s last four games following a SU win of more than 20 points.

Ryno’s Pick: Both of these teams like to shoot a lot of 3-pointers, so it will likely come down to which team shoots better from beyond the arc. While Clarke is one of the best shooters in college basketball, he is the only consistent outside shooter for the Razorbacks. If the Bears can figure out a way to stop him, they will have an advantage because they have multiple 3-point threats. Baylor is also a better rebounding team so the Bears will get more possessions. With this game not being a normal home game for Arkansas, Baylor is the better team and should roll to a victory. Take Baylor -3.5.