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Baylor Preview

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NCAA Basketball: Baylor at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

After a Covid-induced hiatus, Kansas returns to action in Waco when it takes on one of the national title favorites (and if you ask me, the biggest title favorite). Baylor overcame a bit of a scare in its last matchup against Texas Tech, but managed to keep its unblemished record intact with a 68-60 win in Lubbock.

Where to start with Baylor? Well, we can start with the fact they rank 4th nationally in 3-point shooting at over 42 percent as a team, but they also lead the Big 12 in 2-point shooting at right around 55 percent, so Kansas is going to have its work cut out for it defensively. Oh, and if they do miss a shot, the Bears rank 8th nationally in offensive rebound rate.

Maybe the Jayhawks can keep Baylor off the glass like they were able to with Kentucky and Texas Tech, but not with the type of effort they showcased last week in Stillwater. The one minor saving grace Kansas may have is Baylor doesn’t get to the rim often on offense, which brings a little more variance into play. If Baylor has an off shooting night (and Kansas is due for some luck there) the Jayhawks may be able to hold them down a bit.

But that doesn’t cover how Kansas is going to score, which is: I have no idea. Baylor is the nation’s top defensive team and while they don’t have a stout rim protector, they do basically everything else well. They force a ton of turnovers and they don’t allow a ton of 3-point attempts. They can switch 1 thru 5 with a lot of different lineups, and 1 thru 4 with virtually every lineup. With Kansas lacking a guy who can break down his man 1-on-1, or a guy who can feast on Baylor’s smaller interior, it is likely to be a long night.

Players to Watch

Jared Butler, 6-3 junior guard

Cade Cunningham is the most talented player in the league, but Butler is the best. He shoots over 40 percent from three and is at 55 percent from two in Big 12 play, all while leading the league in both assist rate and steal rate.

Davion Mitchell, 6-2 junior guard

Other than Marcus Garrett, Mitchell might be the best perimeter defender in the league. He doesn’t have quite the steal rate of Butler but despite his size he’s the more versatile defender and can guard virtually anyone and take them out of the matchup. Oh, and he’s shooting 42 percent from three.

MaCio Teague, 6-4 senior guard

Teague would be the headliner on most teams, shooting nearly 40 percent from three and 55 percent from two, but he’s not the passer that Butler and Mitchell are. Still, he’s a very good catch-and-shoot guy who helps Baylor’s spacing a ton.

The pick

I don’t envy Bill Self in this one and I don’t really see how Kansas puts up much of a fight. If they play with the toughness they did in Lubbock or against Creighton (or even the comeback against Gonzaga) you never know, but that team hasn’t been around for a couple of weeks. Kansas is a 9.5 point underdog, the most they have been under Self, and I don’t see them covering. Give me the Bears 71-54 in a laugher.

2021 Record ATS: 10-2