This is it: the last Big 12 game. At this point in the season Kansas is usually celebrating their recent Big 12 title, though this year is not the case. Kansas enters the game in a do or die situation as the outcome of this game could decide whether Kansas can keep their Big 12 Championship streak alive or forfeit it to their in-state rival K-State. Saturday will be a momentous day in the Big 12 as the victor, or victors, of the Big 12 will be decided. Baylor has seen their NCAA Tournament chances dissipate after losing five of their last six games, and not even an upset win on senior night could get the Bears in the dance. Recent trends would suggest that Kansas and G Ben McLemore would struggle, as this is a road game, though Bill Self and company knows that there is a lot on the line besides a potential 1 seed. There is the Big 12 championship at stake too.
When: Saturday, March 9, 6:00 PM ET
Where: Ferrell Center, Waco, TX
No injuries to report.
While the Baylor Backcourt does not have any particularly hot shooters, besides G Pierre Jackson (19.1 PPG-6.4 APG), the top five guards contribute 55.5% of the Bears offense and register an average of 23.4 minutes per game. Jackson looks to keep his hot streak going into his last home game as a Baylor Bear as he has averaged 22.6 PPG and 7.2 APG his last five games. G Brady Heslip (8.7 PPG-1.2 RPG) has been hot from long range all season, hitting 38.5% from beyond the arc.
The defense for Baylor has been below average all season and has been getting worse as of late. On the Big 12 season, Baylor has allowed teams to hit 40% from the field, while themselves have hit only 42%, the reason for such narrow victories. In the last five games, Baylor has allowed teams to hit 45% from the field in losses with an average score of 76.4 to 70.8. The Baylor defense will get no rest from the recently surging Jayhawk offense, which has averaged 82.3 PPG in their seven game winning streak.
No Injuries to Report
Defense has been key for Kansas all season and this game is no different. On the season, Kansas has limited teams to just 35% from the field, 32% outside the paint and 39% inside the paint. Teams have taken close to 54% of their shots outside, leaving the other
45% inside the paint. The last time Kansas played Baylor the Bears took close to 40% of their shots outside the paint where they hit only 23%. Hopefully the defense can seal out the paint like they did in the first meeting.
Weakness: Big 12 Road Games
All right, so no team in the Big 12 has been dominant on the road, including Kansas, but compared to past seasons this Jayhawk team has been pitiful in away games. The last two road games for Kansas have seen overtime, while the previous two before those have resulted in losses. The average margin of victory on the road for Kansas during the Big 12 season has been just 3.3, while the largest has been 14, at Texas tech. Last year’s margin of victory was about 8.7. A desperate Baylor squad on senior night would make any Jayhawk fan nervous.
Trending Up: Interior Defense
Recently everything has gone swimmingly for the Jayhawks, especially the defense. During the Jayhawks seven game-winning streak, Kansas has allowed teams to hit close to 36% in the paint, 3% below the season average. In the last meeting with Baylor, the Bears took 60% of their shots in the paint where they hit only 24%. Since then Kansas has done a better job sealing out the paint, allowing just 43% of the shots taken inside the paint during the streak.
Trending Down: Ben McLemore On The Road
G Ben McLemore (16.5 PPG-5.4 RPG) has been a stud at home, averaging 21.8 PPG, but has all disappeared in recent road games. During the Big 12 season, McLemore has averaged just 11.8 PPG and only 7 PPG in his last two road games. The McLemore vanishing act has led to the resurgence of G Elijah Johnson (10.2 PPG-4.9 APG) and G Travis Releford (12.2 PPG-3.7 RPG), though improvement of other players isn’t really the focus of this game.
On paper, this should be a pretty routine game for the Jayhawks, though given the circumstances, I remain skeptical whether Kansas will crack under the pressure or come out with the clutch win. If K-State doesn’t lose to Oklahoma State, then this game becomes a must win for Kansas and on senior night that will not be an easy task. “Choking” has become a staple insult for those who aren’t fans of Kansas, and this game has about as much pressure as a Tournament game, but this game should prove that the Jayhawks’ mid-season swoon was just a fluke.