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Baylor Preview

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Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas begins its defense of the Big 12 title for the 12th straight year with a home tilt with Baylor. It's probably bad for Kansas that they begin the schedule with two home games because a lot of students will still be gone, but I suppose the league needs to up the difficulty as much as possible.

As for Baylor, the team is like the football team in that they are probably really good, but it's tough to tell for sure because they spent most of the nonconference period playing awful teams. They are just 1-2 against KenPom top 100 teams, but with a lot of talent back from last year's team I think the Bears will challege for a top 3 spot in the league.

Offensively, Baylor excels on the glass, ranking 6th in offensive rebound rate. The throw it up and go get it model is enhanced by the fact that Baylor can actually shoot fairly well, so keeping them off the board will be a challenge tomorrow. They don't shoot a lot of threes, but shoot a fairly high percentage, so Kansas will have to guard the perimeter tight while also not letting Baylor get position inside.

Defensively, Baylor is fairly average height wise, which is a big help for Kansas. They'll play a lot of zone like UC Irvine did, but without a lot of the size that caused problems for Kansas in the first half. Baylor is a lot more mobile inside than Irvine and they will hit the glass better, but I think it will be fairly easy to get good looks against the zone, especially with how well Kansas is moving the ball this year. The Jayhawks shot 56 percent and 55 percent from two against the Bears last year, and I think they will have similar success tomorrow.

Personnel

Rico Gathers is Baylor's best player, with apologies to Taurean Prince. Gathers ranks 4th nationally in offensive rebounding rate and 27th in defensive rebounding rate. He has shot it much better this season than he did last season, and is committing just 3.4 fouls per 40 minutes. He won't offer much in the way of rim protection, but Kansas will call on Landen Lucas early and often to keep him off the glass. If Lucas can even come close to holding serve, it will be a big boost for the Jayhawks.

Taurean Prince shouldn't be overlooked, however. He has struggled inside but is shooting 37 percent from deep. Kansas doesn't have anyone tall enough to bother Prince on his shot, but we might see Wayne Selden following him around and faceguarding him.

Al Freeman has been Baylor's main weapon from deep this year, shooting 45 percent on 53 3-pointers this season.

Lester Medford might be the key to this game. The point guard has a 34 percent assist rate and a turnover rate just under 20 percent. He's shooting well on the season as well, although on not many attempts. He will be a challenge for Frank Mason and Devonte Graham to hold down, and I expect Mason to put a lot of pressure on him when Kansas is on offense in an effort to tire him out and lessen Medford's impact when the Bears have the ball.

The Pick

Baylor has played KU tough in the past, and this year's team is tough and talented. This will be their third road game of the year, and are 0-2 on the road at Oregon and Texas A&M. Allen Fieldhouse is a much different environment, and because the Bears play so much zone, and Kansas moves the ball so well, the Jayhawks should be able to score well. If they can continue their work on the defensive glass, the Jayhawks should win comfortably. Kansas 80-66.