When No. 6 Baylor and No. 4 Missouri go toe-to-toe in Columbia, Mo on Saturday (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3), the key could be how much Baylor coach Scott Drew sticks to his zone defense.
Baylor is a team that has no major allegiance toward its man or zone defense. The Bears have played zone on 53 percent of their defensive plays this season. Their numbers in each type of defense are similar -- teams are shooting about 39 percent against both their man and zone defenses.
But Missouri is a better offensive team against a man defense, and especially against Baylor's man defense.
When Baylor and Missouri faced off earlier this season -- a game Missouri won 89-88 on Jan. 21 -- the Tigers were worlds better against Baylor's man defense than against its zone.
Missouri came away with points on 70 percent of its plays against Baylor's man defense but only 40 percent of its plays against the Bears' zone.
Baylor played zone for 82 percent of the first half and held Missouri to 39 points, which is actually below the Tigers' average this season. But in the second half, Baylor mixed it up evenly with its man and zone defenses. The result? Missouri scored on 16 of 20 plays against the man defense, as compared to just 45 percent against the zone, and ultimately Baylor gave up 50 second-half points and lost the game.
Pierre Jackson Man Defense This Season Minimum 75 Plays
One of Baylor's major problems is that point guard Pierre Jackson, the team's most utilized man defender, has trouble defending in a man defense. When guarding man-to-man, Jackson is allowing opposing players to shoot 52 percent from the field and an adjusted field goal percentage of 66, which also factors in made 3-pointers. Exactly how bad has Jackson's man defense been this season? Check out the chart to the right for details.
Jackson's downfall could be exposed against a guard-oriented Missouri team -- one that has four of the top 100 players in terms of points per possession against man defense.
Most Points Per Play vs Man Defense
Against man-to-man defense, Missouri has the best offense in college basketball among teams with a minimum of 1,000 plays. The Tigers are the only team in the country averaging more than a point per play. They're scoring on 47 percent of their plays against man-to-man, which also leads the country. In addition, they're shooting 48 percent from the field and turning the ball over on approximately one of every seven plays, which both rank among the top 15 in college basketball.
Baylor's zone defense may not totally shut down Missouri's offense, but the Tigers turn the ball over more often and score less often against zone defenses. If Baylor sticks to its zone defense and plays it as well as it did against the Tigers in Waco, the Bears could leave Columbia with a signature win. If they don’t, it could get ugly.