Kansas returns to Allen Fieldhouse as a first place team, and takes on a Baylor team that in a lot of ways is KU’s total inverse. The Bears currently have the last ranked offense in the Big 12, but the third ranked defense. Paradoxically, there are reasons to be worried about their offense, and reasons to be optimistic about scoring on their defense.
For starters, Baylor leads the Big 12 in offensive rebounding, grabbing 36 percent of their misses in league play. That’s kind of where the positives end, however. Baylor ranks 10th in the Big 12 in eFG, turnover percentage, free throw rate, and 2 point percentage, and they rank 9th in threes attempted and 3-point percentage. As we all know, Bill Self loves his defense to force a bad shot and then get a rebound. The toughest part tomorrow looks like it will be the rebound part.
Defensively, Baylor ranks 24th nationally and third in the Big 12, allowing 101.6 points per 100 possessions in Big 12 play. They do this mostly with a stout 2-point defense, which ranks tops in the Big 12 at 44 percent. They also give up fewer shots at the rim than any team in the country, a paltry 17.5 percent of opponents shots. Obviously Bill Self likes to get the ball to the rim, but if there is any KU team that can overcome a lack of rim attempts, it’s this one.
The good news, however, is Baylor gives up the 9th most threes in the Big 12, and while they have played more man defense this year than in recent years, they still employ that zone that Kansas has usually torn apart in Allen Fieldhouse.
Players to Watch
Jo Lual Acuil, 7-0 senior center
Acuil scored in double figures in both games against the Jayhawks last year, and has taken over for Jonathan Motley as Baylor’s go to scorer. He shoots 52 percent on twos, and is one of the better offensive rebounders in the league. He also currently ranks 5th in the league in block percentage.
Manu Lecomte, 5-11 senior guard
Lecomte is shooting 41 percent from three, but that’s sort of where it ends in terms of his positives. He is shooting just 41 percent on twos and has a turnover rate almost as high as his assist rate. Having said that, he’s probably in for a triple-double or something.
Terry Maston, 6-8 senior forward
As their best offensive rebounder, Maston is absolutely vital to this game. If Kansas can keep him off the glass, they should somewhat coast to a victory. Given that he leads the league in that statistic, it’s easier said than done obviously. While Maston isn’t their go to scorer by any means, he’s efficient, shooting 54 percent on twos and is 3-8 from three this year (watch him make 3 tomorrow).
Keys to the Game
- Defensive rebounding - As I mentioned, Baylor leads the league in that stat. If Kansas can keep them to say 33 percent rather than 36 percent, that’s at least 4-8 fewer points for the Bears.
- Threes - Kansas should have quite a few open ones. Baylor doesn’t really have the size on the perimeter to force a lot of tough looks, so Kansas should feel free to bomb away.
- Turnovers - Probably not as big of a key as the other two, but Baylor turns it over more than anyone else in the league. With easy baskets tough to come by inside against the Bears’ D, a few turnovers which lead to dunks would surely help.
Even though Baylor is a very good offensive rebounding team and has a stout defense, I don’t see much trouble in this one. Kansas is a pretty tough team to zone, and there should be quite a few threes available for the Jayhawks. While I don’t think they’ll completely eliminate the Bears on the offensive glass, they should do just enough to keep them from dominating, and I think the Jayhawks will get their easiest win of the Big 12 season, 77-66.