The Big 12 is a logjam up top, but Baylor isn’t includedin the mix and that will probably be the case the rest of the season. Even after a good start that includedwins over Wisconsin and Creighton, it’s been a rough first half of the season for the Bears. Things probably won’t get any better with a trip to LAwrence on Saturday.
But while that’s the case for Baylor, things haven’t been any easier for Kansas even if it sits in first place. The difference is that the Jayhawks are scraping out wins in close contests, whereas Baylor is losing all of them. Nothing has come easy for KU with all five of its Big 12 wins coming by six points or less and that’ll be the main reason anyone takes Baylor ATS in this Game. The Jayhawks have been far from dominant, no matter the opponent and no matter the location. Close home wins over Iowa State and Kansas State show that.
The problem for Baylor is that it still hasn’t won a true road Game all season. The Bears were blown out at Texas Tech, couldn’t Scoreat West Virginia and fell apart in the final five minutes at Iowa State. Now at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, it’s hard to see Baylor having enough, even against a weaker Jayhawks team.
That said, there will be a path to keeping this Game close as well as a chance to win for Baylor, no matter what the records say. Baylor runs numerous zones on defense and that’s the one thing Kansas struggles against offensively, especially if it isn’t hitting shots. The Jayhawks have good overall numbers, but if Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk aren’t making more than 50 percent of their shots, this Game will be close. And even if they are hitting shots, KU’s defense ranks near the bottom of the Conference and that’s a main reason all of its Games are close.
On the other end of that, Baylor isn’t winning because of even more inconsistency shooting the ball. Leading scorer Manu Lecomte (16.9 ppg) has not been efficient shooting the ball against better competition, going 7-of-34 from deep in Big 12 (not including Monday’s win). That’s not a recipe for winning Games, especially when no one else on the team is better than 40 percent from three-point range. Instead, Baylor may be better off attacking down low with Jo LUal-Acuil (15.4 pgg, 9.5 rpg) and Terry Maston. LUal-Acuil is having a solid season and he’s going to be important against a smaller Kansas lineup and will likely see a lot of Udoka Azubuike. As for Maston, he’s not called upon often, but he has the body to overpower a smaller Kansas lineup, especially if LAgerald Vick or Mykhailiuk are the ones defending him.
If Baylor doesn’t win the battle in the paint, it’s hard to see the upset because that’s the main advantage it has. The only other hope is that the Jayhawks go cold from deep. And while that could happen, it’s hard to bet against a team with the hopes it goes cold, especially one that ranks in the top five in the country in effective field-goal percentage. Graham, Malik Newman and Vick should all have the edge on the perimeter and if the Jayhawks don’t let LUal-Acuil or Maston take over in the post, this could be an easy home win. But as seen all Conference season, nothing has come easy for the Jayhawks.
Our Pick – Kansas -9.5