If Baylor could replay the final five or so minutes of their game against Washington earlier this season, we’d be talking about one of the last unbeatens in America right now. As it is, Baylor has put together an impressive start to the season, with wins over Villanova, Arizona, and Butler, and they can put themselves in the Big 12 driver’s seat with a win in Allen Fieldhouse.
I could somewhat copy and paste the offense section from the West Virginia preview here, because the Bears like to score somewhat similarly. They rank 4th nationally in offensive rebounding, although they shoot more threes and shoot them better than the Mountaineers. Their backcourt is also much better than West Virginia’s, which makes it more puzzling why their offense hasn’t been better.
However, they are yet to score a point per trip in Big 12 play, and scored barely over a point per possession against powerhouses Texas State and Maryland Eastern Shore. Barring a hot day from three, it’s tough to see them scoring enough against Kansas, unless they can rebound half their misses like West Virginia.
Defensively, the Bears have been quite impressive. They rank 10th nationally in 2-point defense, they limit 3-point attempts well, and force teams to turn it over on about 23 percent of their possessions. With length and size at every possession, Baylor could make it difficult for Kansas to pass the ball around effectively and could make difficult shots the norm rather than the exception.
Additionally, they’ve played man defense a lot more this season than any other in Scott Drew’s time at Baylor, which I think hurts Kansas more than it helps. The Bears have some foul-prone big men, which could be KU’s best avenue to score Saturday.
Players to Watch
Jared Butler, 6-3 sophomore guard
Butler has been probably the third best point guard in the league this season, which is no small feat. He is a dogged defender who can also score both inside (48%) and out (40%). While he’s a low turnover guy, he also isn’t the best assist man. KU’s best defense against him will likely be to get him to give the ball up ASAP and then not let him get it back.
Tristan Clark, 6-10 junior forward
Clark has really struggled this season in his return from injury, playing in just 9 games for the Bears so far this season. He has also scored in double figures just once. He looked certain to be a first team all Big 12 type guy this year, and still has that talent, so Kansas still needs to pay attention to him.
Mark Vital, 6-5 junior forward
Vital isn’t a very good shooter, and he’s averaging just 6.7 ppg, but if you asked Bill Self which one Baylor player he’d take at Kansas, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Vital’s name. Vital is one of the best offensive rebounders and defenders in the entire conference, which is an interesting set of skills for a 6-5 guy, and he’s one guy who Kansas won’t be able to outwork.
I don’t think Baylor has quite enough offense in this one, and a low scoring slugfest would seem to favor Kansas given that it is at Allen Fieldhouse. After the rebounding debacle against West Virginia last weekend, Kansas has hopefully learned its lesson, which would shut off Baylor’s main avenue to score. I don’t see a line on this one yet, but I’ll take the Jayhawks to win 74-65.
(Editor’s note: The line opened at KU -8.)
Season record ATS: 6-7