Baylor heads to Lawrence for their first game with Kansas in the 2017-18 campaign, and to help us understand our opponent a bit better, I asked Kendall Kaut at Our Daily Bears to answer a few questions for us.
Let’s start off with preseason expectations for Baylor. The Bears entered the season at #24 in the AP Poll. The non-con schedule wasn’t exactly daunting, but features wins over Creighton and Wisconsin to go alongside losses to Xavier and Wichita State. Did non-conference play go as planned?
Yes. I predicted Baylor’s non-conference record. Wichita State and Xavier are top 15 teams. Creighton’s a top 25 one. Baylor beat Creighton and was close against Wichita State. If Terry Maston didn’t break his hand in the first half, the Bears might have had a shot against Xavier.
Wisconsin being terrible, and Scott Drew cancelling the Vanderbilt series after Bryce Drew got the job hurt the strength of schedule, but the Bears had four major programs on the schedule, and we get Florida in the Big 12-SEC Challenge.
Baylor was picked to finish 5th in the Big 12 in the preseason coaches poll. Was that a realistic expectation for the Bears entering conference play?
Yep. Losing Johnathan Motley was tough, but Manu Lecomte, Jo Lual-Acuil and Terry Maston are a nice senior trio. The Bears might end up finishing lower in the league, but it made a lot of sense to put Baylor there.
A rough start to conference play has Baylor sitting at 2-4, but two of those losses were by three points. Why haven’t the Bears been able to close out games?
It’s not really about closing games--it’s about terrible shooting. Baylor had a wide open three against West Virginia in Morgantown that would have sent it to overtime. The Bears went 1-of-12 from deep against TCU, despite taking 11 more shots in regulation. Baylor’s had plenty of good looks, they just haven’t made them.
Who is a player for Baylor that Kansas fans will need to keep an eye out for?
Terry Maston. Kansas’ pick-and-roll defense can leave him open, and he’ll be a big challenge for LaGerald Vick or Svi.
What key matchup needs to go Baylor’s way in order for the Bears to emerge victorious on Saturday?
The Bears need to shoot at least 40% from three to win. That seems like a tall order given the recent struggles, but let’s be real: Baylor is the underdog here.
How well did Jo Lual-Acuil handle Texas’ Mo Bamba?
Very well. Bamba had a nice run in the second half, but Lual-Acuil had 17 points and four blocks.
How do you expect the matchup between Lual-Acuil and Azubuike to go?
It depends on if Baylor plays man-to-man or stays zone for a lot of his time on the court. Jo should be able to score a decent bit on Azubuike because his game isn’t dependent on being two feet from the hoop and he’s fast. But Lual-Acuil will have a very tough time stopping Azubuike from getting deep post position in man-to-man. It’s why I’d play zone as long as possible and gamble that KU has an off shooting night and be willing to lose by 25 to have a better chance at pulling the upset.
Until the Oklahoma State game a few days ago, Manu Lecomte was having a horrible January, at least in terms of shooting. What is going on there?
He hurt his non-shooting wrist, which impacted his delivery against Texas Tech. And he’s battled some pain, but it was a nasty slump. Lecomte’s been an awesome shooter for three years--and the non-conference this season--so he shouldn’t have a 7-of-34 run the rest of the way.
Who is going to win the Big 12 this year?
I had Kansas, Villanova, Wichita State and Arizona in the Final Four before the season. It’d be fitting for this KU team to make the Final Four after last year’s team was better, similar to how the 2012 team made the title game when the 2011 team was better.
Sorry, that last question was a selfish one. Give us a prediction for the game on Saturday!
I have a giant preview on Our Daily Bears. I have Kansas winning 74-65.
BONUS QUESTION: What was/is your favorite video game of all-time (any platform)?
Super Mario 64
A big thanks goes out to Kyle for helping us out today. Don’t forget to check out coverage of the game, including the questions I answered for him, over at Our Daily Bears.