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Baylor Preview

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Baylor at Kansas Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images

Kansas begins its final pair of back-to-back road games with a trip to Waco, where the Jayhawks have won the last four meetings, with the last three margins of victory being a total of nine points.

This has been one of Baylor’s most disappointing teams, as Manu Lecomte and Jo Acuil have not filled the hole provided by the departure of Jonathan Motley. Offensively, the Bears rank 9th in the league, scoring just under 1.04 points per trip. It’s been especially bad shooting wise, with Baylor ranking 10th in effective field goal percentage, 7th in 2-point percentage, and 10th in 3-point percentage.

They also take the fewest number of threes in the league, which means KU’s frustrating inability to cover shooters likely won’t be as exposed. Baylor does rank 2nd in the league in offensive rebounding, rebounding roughly 36 percent of their misses, but hopefully, 1) KU saw in the TCU game the importance of defensive rebounding, and 2) Baylor won’t make enough threes for a huge rebounding advantage to matter.

Defensively, Baylor has been impressive, ranking 3rd in the league allowing 1.04 points per possession, and they rank 1st in the league in 2-point defense, allowing teams to shoot just 44.4 percent inside the arc. In the first matchup, the Jayhawks couldn’t get much going offensively, shooting 41 percent on twos and only attempting around 34.6 percent of their shots from beyond the arc.

Kansas has mostly been able to take advantage of Baylor’s zone in the past via open threes and easy baskets off lobs, and those shots (the hopefully 3 or 4 open lobs especially) will be key in what should be a tight, low scoring battle.

Players to Watch

Jo Lual-Acuil, 7-0 senior center

Acuil hasn’t been Jonathan Motley good, but he’s been very good in his own right for the Bears, shooting over 50 percent on twos, ranking just outside the top 5 in both offensive and defensive rebounding, and 7th in block percentage. He had 14 and 12 in the first meeting with the Jayhawks, although Kansas did negate some of his defensive presence and also made him foul out.

Manu Lecomte, 5-11 senior guard

Lecomte is probably due for a bounce back game from the first meeting, when he shot just 1-8 from three. He’s a career 41 percent shooter from deep, and has the ability to get open running off ball screens, so he’ll likely knock down a few tomorrow. If Kansas can corral him off the ball, however, it can take him out of the game pretty much altogether.

Nuni Omot, 6-9 senior forward

Omot is shooting 44 percent from three in conference play, although in just over 30 attempts, but is also a 36 percent shooter from deep for his career and is definitely dangerous enough to make a couple if the Jayhawks wing defenders leave him open (which they will). He had a career high 7 free throw attempts last meeting, making all 7 of them.

Keys to the Game

  1. Defensive rebounding - Kansas basically won the last meeting by keeping Baylor off the glass. The Bears shot 50 percent from two and didn’t turn it over much, but only rebounded 31 percent of their misses. If Kansas limits them like that again, they’ll win.
  2. Threes - It’s a matchup of strengths and weaknesses. Baylor takes fewer threes than anyone in the league, and Kansas allows more. Meanwhile, Kansas takes more threes than anyone in the league, and Baylor has done a decent job of keeping teams off the arc. Whichever team makes the most of what could be somewhat limited attempts will have a huge leg up.
  3. Easy baskets - Baylor doesn’t give up a ton of easy ones inside, but Bill Self specializes in getting those lobs against the zone. Even 6 free points could be huge in this one.

The pick

I said in the TCU preview that in deciding who to pick going forward I’d basically just look at offensive rebounding. I’m already going against that. Baylor just doesn’t do anything else well enough offensively, and even though Kansas has struggled a bit against the zone lately, Bill Self is just too good at drawing up plays against it. I’ll take the Jayhawks in another somewhat defensive battle, 76-72.