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Baylor* Preview

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New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Kansas hosts Baylor* in their final Big 12 game tomorrow looking to avoid its second season sweep of the year. The Bears struggled a bit against Iowa State in their return from hiatus, but still boast one of the top teams in the nation and are still my pick to win it all, so Kansas has its work cut out for it.

Offensively, Baylor leads the country in 3-point shooting, and they attempt enough of them to where it is clearly not a fluke. It’s not all one guy either: five Bears are over 40 percent from three, with three of those guys attempting 75 or more threes this season. They also lead the Big 12 in 2-point shooting, and if they miss (which isn’t often) they lead the league in offensive rebounding as well. Good luck.

Defensively, Baylor may be due for a bit of a regression. They rank 1st in the Big 12 in points per possession allowed, but just 6th in 2-point percentage allowed and 8th in terms of allowing assists. They also get a boost from “allowing” a league best 65.8 percent at the free throw line. It’s not much, but I think their defense is less solid than their offense, which is surprising considering all of the versatile, lengthy athletes they have on the perimeter. That in and of itself will likely lead to the Bears holding Kansas to a low point total, but it is worth noting Baylor has allowed at least a point per possession in their last 3 games and 4 of their last 6.

Players to Watch

Jared Butler, 6-4 senior guard

The odds on Big 12 player of the year favorite (and a national player of the year candidate), Butler has been excellent this season. He is shooting 56 percent from two and 45 percent from three while also leading the Big 12 in assist rate. Lest you think you can pick on him defensively, he also leads the league in steal rate.

Davion Mitchell, 6-2 junior guard

Mitchell is basically Butler with less volume: he’s shooting 55 percent from two and 45 percent from three in Big 12 play, and ranks 8th in the league in steal rate. He’s also, even apart from the steal rate, an excellent perimeter defender who can guard nearly any perimeter player in the country.

MaCio Teague, 6-4 senior guard

Teague is less involved than the other two offensively, but still manages to make an impact on the game, shooting 50 percent from two and over 37 percent from three in Big 12 play.

The Pick

Kansas scored over a point per possession last time against Baylor, and although the Jayhawks had it within 4 points a couple times late in the second half, they needed an abnormally hot day from 3 to do so. Still, that was prior to their renaissance defensively. If they can keep defending like they have been, this may turn into a dogfight. But Baylor is incredibly talented across the board and even if Marcus Garrett can take Jared Butler out of the game or if David McCormack can feast inside, Baylor’s 3rd through 6th (or so) best players are so much better than KU’s, so due to that, plus their versatile perimeter defense and ability to shoot it from deep, give me the Bears, 78-65.

2021 record ATS: 17-7