Kansas was in a great position to grab hold of the Big 12 last weekend, but struggled most of the way in a home loss to Oklahoma State. That result only confirms that there are no easy Games in the Big 12 and that includes this meeting against Baylor.
In fact, the last time these teams played at Allen Fieldhouse, Baylor was up 67-61 with a few minutes to go until it gave up nine straight points and failed to Scoreagain. While that was the case, it’s also important to know that Kansas had the lead the entire way until about five minutes to go. And that first meeting went almost exactly how it should’ve. Baylor struggled from deep going 4-for-20, but also won the battle of the boards and had 12 offensive rebounds leading to eight more field goal attempts. As for the Jayhawks, they got to the free throw line 34 times and that led to Malik Newman having one of his highest point totals of the season at 24.
As expected, Baylor is a better team at home and despite its record in Conference play, has won three of its last Four in Waco. The Bears still have a chance to reach the NCAA Tournament, but will need to win a big Game or two and that’s exactly what this could be.
Baylor’s defense was a big reason it almost won that first matchup as the Jayhawks couldn’t get much going and Svi Mykhailiuk’s seven points didn’t help matters. Baylor leads the Big 12 in defensive two-point percentage allowed so it wasn’t a fluke that KU struggled in that area in addition to going 7-of-18 from deep. The Bears run multiple zones and had a large focus on stopping Mykhailiuk and Devonte’ Graham, which led to better looks for Malik Newman. Assuming Newman doesn’t have such an easy time this Game, someone else will need to play better for the Jayhawks and that’s where Graham and Mykhailiuk step in. Those two have been the engine in the offense this season with Mykhailiuk on a tear since that poor performance against Baylor (prior to Tuesday’s one point).
As for the Bears, even with one of the worst offenses in the conference, they’ll have a chance to win this Game playing at home. KU’s defense has been far from dominant this season and their top-ranked three-point defense isn’t a big deal because Baylor doesn’t rely on the three-ball as it is.
Similar to that last Game, Baylor will attack the paint as much as possible with Jo LUal-Acuil and Nuni Omot. Maybe most interesting from that first Game was that bulky big man Terry Maston only played Four minutes. In Saturday’s win against Iowa State, Maston played 27 minutes and scored 23 points. There’s a decent chance the Bears can once again win on the offensive glass, which should keep them in striking distance.
The only problem is that Kansas always comes out on the winning end whenever its back is against the wall. That happened earlier in the season after a home loss to Texas Tech and the Jayhawks went to TCU and won convincingly on the road. This team also dominated K State last time on the road and had a big comeback at West Virginia. Betting against Kansas isn’t the easiest thing, but as seen above, Baylor has what it takes to do so.
Our Pick – Baylor -2