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Kansas - Baylor Preview

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Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas can clinch a season sweep over Baylor for the third consecutive year and clinch a better conference road record in 2016 than 2015 with a win over the Bears tonight.

Baylor presents a weird dichotomy tonight. The Bears are no doubt a good team, and back to back wins over Iowa State and Texas have propelled them back near the top of the league. They've also played Kansas relatively tough in Waco the last couple years, having lost by just one last season and killing the Jayhawks in the season finale in 2013. But there probably isn't a top half of the conference team that Kansas matches up with better than Baylor. Baylor leads the conference in offensive rebounding, grabbing 39 percent of its misses, but fortunately the Jayhawks have mostly been great on the defensive glass in conference play, especially with Landen Lucas in the game. Baylor also makes its living on defense mostly by playing zone, and with KU's 3-point shooting ability and ability to move the ball, that should spell death for the Bears. If Kansas has a tough shooting night from the outside, Baylor ranks 9th in the league in 2-point defense, so (a hopefully bespectacled) Perry Ellis should be able to get things done inside.

Baylor shoots threes well (38 percent) but is 10th in the league in attempts, so an upset via raining threes doesn't seem likely. Like the first matchup, the key will probably be whether Kansas can avoid shooting something abysmal like 25 percent from three and whether the Jayhawks can avoid getting killed on the glass. If they can even hold Baylor to a draw they should come away with the win.

Players to Watch

Rico Gathers remains awesome. The senior leads the league in offensive rebounding and ranks second in defensive rebounding. Gathers has also improved his shooting this year, making half of his twos, though it is worth noting he is shooting much less this Big 12 season.

Johnathan Motley has had a pretty underrated season. Motley is shooting 67.6 percent from two, which ranks 3rd in the league, ranks 5th in offensive rebounding, 10th in defensive rebounding, and is 3rd in the league in block percentage at 7.8 percent.

Lester Medford has an outside shot at an all Big 12 selection. Medford ranks 3rd in the league in assist rate and has a 21.4 percent turnover rate to go with it. It would be beneficial for the Jayhawks to run him off the 3-point line, as Medford shoots 45.8 percent from deep but just 35.4 percent inside the arc.

The Pick

It's tough to make this pick without knowing how healthy Perry Ellis is. His ability to operate in that zone is huge for the Jayhawks, and for how good Landen Lucas has been, he can't replace that scoring. Similarly, Jamari Traylor has done some good things against Baylor's zone in the past, but it's tough to see that occurring for a full game. If this were a team of similar quality to Baylor but a team that matches up with Kansas a bit better I'd probably pick the Jayhawks to go down. As it is, the Jayhawks match up so well with Baylor, and with a win can put themselves a win against Texas Tech on Saturday away from clinching the conference title, so I am taking Kansas to squeak this one out, 79-74.