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Baylor

at

Kansas

College Basketball Pick

2/1/17

While these teams play again in a couple weeks, this game can still go a long way in deciding the Big 12 regular season champion. Both Kansas and Baylor come in with 7-1 conference records, two wins above any other team. For the Jayhawks to win their 12th-straight title, it appears that Baylor is the only team standing in its path. Winning yet another game at Allen Fieldhouse will be the first step in getting there.

KU lost at West Virginia last week, but is coming off a huge win at Kentucky on Saturday. The Jayhawks left Rupp Arena with everyone stunned as the Wildcats lost yet another home game and second straight overall. Kansas more than showed its potential in that game and why it has the best backcourt in the nation. Against Kentucky, Frank Mason, Devonte' Graham and Josh Jackson combined for 43 of the team's 79 points and got production from role players Svi Mykhailiuk and Landen Lucas. While they don't have much on the bench, this Kansas team has the tools to be National Champion in April. Of course, they still have some questions in the frontcourt with Lucas their only real big. Kentucky wasn't able to capitalize on that, but Baylor is built a bit differently.

The Bears have multiple bigs down low that can score led by Johnathan Motley, who has been one of the best players in the country this season with 16.2 points and 9.6 boards per game. Baylor escaped Ole Miss on Saturday and will need a much better performance to win in Lawrence. But this game could play out a little differently with Kansas lacking size outside of Lucas and with Carlton Bragg suspended. Lucas will get to mark the improved 7-foot Jo Lual-Acuil, who gets better by the game. The bigger problem is who guards Motley and all signs point to KU playing a defense other than man. Jackson and Mykhailiuk simply aren't big or strong enough to contain someone like Motley. To go with that, Baylor's bigs are great rim protectors on the other end and a main reason they allow the worst two-point FG percentage in the Big 12.

So while Mason, Graham and Jackson are all great at driving to the hole, this is a game that their shooting needs to come through in. And conveniently, the Jayhawks have the best three-point percentage in the conference with three guys having already made at least 44 from deep. Baylor's task will be to limit the open looks for all of them. So far, Manu Lecomte, Al Freeman and Ishmail Wainwright have all been great defensively, but this is a different test entirely. If Kansas is hitting its shots at home, it's going to take a complete effort from the Baylor team to win and that's not out of the question.

Due to their size advantage, the Bears should win the rebounding battle, which also means winning on the offensive glass. If they can do that, they'll remain competitive. Of course, it was a similar situation last season and while the teams were different, Baylor still had the size advantage. Kansas ended up getting out to an early lead and that was it in a 102-74 win. If KU is hitting shots against the Baylor zone, it could be another long game for the Bears. But with Motley, Lual-Acuil and Nuni Omot working in the paint, it's hard to see Baylor getting blown out again in this situation. Then again, it's never good to doubt Kansas at home.

Our Pick Kansas by -6.5

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