We interrupt National Signing Day to preview tonight’s basketball game against the fellow first place Baylor Bears.
Baylor, like Kansas, has had its ups and downs in Big 12 play, struggling to win home games against Iowa State, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech. It also a nice matchup of contrasts, as it pits the top ranked offense in the league against the top ranked defense, and the 6th ranked offense against the 6th ranked defense. There are, however, reasons to be worried and optimistic about that mark.
We start with Baylor’s offense. Scoring 1.04 points per possession in Big 12 play, Baylor is only that high because they lead the league in offensive rebounding, grabbing 42 percent of their misses. Kansas has been a bit of a mixed bag on the offensive glass, limiting Oklahoma State and Kentucky, but allowing West Virginia to grab whatever rebound they wanted. Baylor also ranks 9th in both 3-point attempts and percentage, and 10th in turnover percentage, turning it over on roughly 23 percent of their possessions. It is also a bit surprising they shoot just 50 percent on twos considering they have Johnathan Motley. KU’s ability, or lack thereof, to defend those types of players is what makes me think Baylor could do a better job of scoring than they have been.
Defensively, Baylor leads the league allowing just .96 points per possession, and they also lead the league in 2-point percentage allowed at 43.2 percent, which is very good. However, Baylor is also 8th in the league at allowing threes, and 9th in the league at forcing turnovers. Kansas is going to likely have a lot of possessions where they are able to get up a shot, and given how they have been against zones this year, a lot of possessions where they are able to get up a good shot.
Players to Watch
Johnathan Motley, senior forward
Motley will certainly go in the first round next summer. He is shooting 52 percent inside the arc, which is great for a guy with a usage rate north of 29 percent. He also is drawing 6.2 fouls per 40 minutes this year, and is one of the better offensive rebounders in the country. He also is pretty good at the free throw line, so Kansas will have to be on its best behavior down low.
Manu Lecomte, junior guard
Lecomte shoots 49 percent on twos and 41 percent from three, and even though he has a fairly high turnover rate, his assist rate of 28.5 percent somewhat makes up for that. He’s been pretty good defensively when I have watched Baylor as well, although at just 5-11 he doesn’t have the size to bother either Mason or Graham.
Jo Lual-Acuil, junior forward
At 7 feet, Lual-Acuil is an imposing presence inside. He shoots 61.5 percent on twos (and is 5-13 from three funnily enough). He also is 15th nationally in block percentage, and is the team’s best non-Motley rebounder.
Things to Watch For
- 3 point shooting - Kansas should have plenty of opportunities to take open ones. If they take them, and make them, they should win, but missing out on either half of that equation could have them in some trouble.
- Defensive rebounding - Baylor certainly will attempt to hammer it inside, and Motley and Acuil should get their points. But they can’t do it all by themselves. Baylor’s offense survives by getting extra shots, and Kansas hammering the defensive glass will go a long way towards preventing that.
- Turnovers - Speaking of which, Baylor is one of the worst teams at turning it over and forcing them. That is a lot of extra possessions for the Jayhawks if they can take advantage.
In some ways, Baylor is a very tough matchup with all of the inside presence they have. Offensively they should get some easy baskets, and defensively they should force Kansas into a tough day if they try to attack the rim in the halfcourt. On the other hand, Kansas should be able to outrun them and Baylor’s zone should give the Jayhawks a ton of good looks. I really think this could go either way, even in Lawrence, so I will take the Jayhawks in a narrow 77-71 game.