Game 27 – Kansas at Baylor: Preview and Prediction

The No.3 Kansas Jayhawks (23-3, 11-2 Big 12) hit the road on Saturday for a showdown with the No.4 Baylor Bears (22-4, 9-4 Big 12). This matchup has huge implications on the race for the Big 12 title. If Kansas wins, they’ll have a strangle hold on first place in the league. If Baylor wins, KU’s lead will shrink to one with four games remaining.

The Jayhawks come in off a thrilling overtime victory over No.9 West Virginia. KU came back from 14 points down in the final three minutes to force overtime, and snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat.

Prior to the tipoff of KU’s game on Monday night, Baylor fell at Texas Tech, 84-78. In that game senior forward Jonathan Motley was rather ineffective, as he was limited to just 11 points and 5 rebounds. The loss ended up to be a huge one, as KU was able to build their Big 12 lead to two games.

Game Notes

  • Kansas leads the all-time series 28-4
  • Kansas has won the last nine contests with Baylor
  • Kansas is 14-2 in their last 16 games against Baylor
  • Baylor’s last win over Kansas came in March of 2013 in Waco
  • Kansas is 11-2 all-time in Waco
  • Bill Self is 20-4 all-time vs Baylor
  • Baylor’s head coach, Scott Drew, is 3-20 vs. Kansas
  • KU is looking for their fourth win over a top five opponent. They’ve already beaten No.1 Duke, No.5 Kentucky and No.2 Baylor
  • In his last six games, senior guard Frank Mason is averaging 21.5 PPG, 3.8 APG, 4.0 RPG and is shooting 41% from the field and 44% from three. Mason is also shooting 53% from three in Big 12 play
  • Freshman wing, Josh Jackson has tallied five double-doubles in his last six games, including a 23 point, 11 rebound performance vs. Baylor on February 1st
  • Baylor is ranked 8th on KenPom.com, while KU is ranked 9th
  • Baylor is 23rd in adjusted offensive efficiency and 6th in defensive efficiency
  • VegasInsider.com has Baylor at a 2-point favorite

When: Saturday, February 17th, 2017 12:00pm CT

Where: Ferrell Center, Waco, TX

How to Watch: CBS

No. 4 Baylor Bears (22-4, 9-4 Big 12)

The Bears have somewhat of a surprising season thus far. After losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season, Baylor was picked to finish fifth in the Big 12. Of course though, they had a very successful non-conference slate as they knocked off the likes of Oregon, Michigan State, Xavier and Louisville. They’re non-conference success vaulted them to a 15-0 record and their first No.1 ranking in school history.

Since then the Bears have gone 7-4, but are still considered one of the best teams in the nation. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi still has Baylor as a one seed in the south region.

The Bears are one of the best defensive teams in the country. They play that tricky zone defense, but one thing that can hurt a zone is the three point shot. As we all know, that is a strength of this KU team. The length and size of Baylor is what makes this zone so tough to play against. Points in the paint could come at a premium.

Offensively, Baylor is led by senior forward Johnathan Motley. Last time out vs KU, Motley was great in the first half as he scored 14 points and grabbed 6 boards. The Jayhawks clamped down on him in the second half as they held him to 2 points.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Strength – Rim Protection: This is where Baylor’s length and size comes into play. Baylor ranks 2nd nationally in allowing shots at the rim, opponents get just 20.2% of there shots at the rim against the Bears. They also rank 23rd in block percentage (8.9%) and 30th in blocks per game (5.0).

Strength – Close Shot Offense: If the Bears gets a chance at the rim, they’re almost automatic. They rank 7th in FG% at the rim, they make 71% of their shots there.

Strength – Offensive Rebounding: Baylor ranks 7th in offensive rebounding percentage as they haul in 36.6% of their own misses.

Strength – Sharing the Ball: The Big 12 is full of great point guards and Baylor has one themselves in Manu Lecomte. He’s dishing out 4.1 APG. As a team they’re 48th nationally in APG as they average 15.7 per contest.

Strength – Slow starters?: The Bears are averaging just 33.5 points in the first half this season, that ranks 195th in the country. Kansas is 12th nationally in first half points.


Weakness – Ball security: The Bears can get sloppy with the ball. They turn the ball over 13.2 times per game, which ranks 179th in the country.

Weakness – Three-point Shooting: They rank 183rd nationally, and 7th in the Big 12 in three-point shooting. In the first meeting with Kansas, they shot 36% from beyond the arc which is right about where their season average is of 34%.

Weakness – Defensive Rebounding: They’re not as good on the defensive glass as they are on the offensive glass. The Bears are 189th in defensive rebounding percentage, they grab just 72% of their opponents misses. They are 4th in the Big 12 in defensive rebounds per game.

Weakness – Free Throw Shooting: Baylor is shooting just 71% from the line, which ranks 128th in the country. They also rank 204th in free throws made per game and 227th in free throws attempted per game.

Bears to Watch

Johnathan Motley – 6’10”, Forward, Junior

Motley is in the running for the Big 12 Player of the Year, right there with Frank Mason. In DraftExpress.com’s latest mock draft, Motley is projected as a late first rounder. He is Baylor’s primary option offensively. He’s great at finishing at the rim as he shoots 71% from there. He also has a pretty decent midrange game. 55% of his shots this season have been two-point jumpers, and he’s converted on 43% of them. For the season he’s shooting 52% from the floor, that ranks 6th in the Big 12. Motley is the Big 12’s leading rebounder at 9.5 RPG. In the first matchup in Lawrence he has 10 rebounds.

Manu Lecomte – 5’11”, Guard, Junior

The Miami transfer might one of the favorites to win Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. Lecomte has been one of the best point guards in the league this year. He’s second on the team in PPG (12.8) and first in APG (4.1). Lecomte is Baylor’s best threat from the outside. He shoots 42% from beyond the arc, which ranks fifth in the Big 12. In the initial meeting with Kansas, Lecomte had 16 points, 4 assists and was 4-6 from long range. The matchup between him and Frank Mason will be fun to watch.

Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. – 7’0″, Forward, Junior

Lual-Acuil Jr. the No.1 rim protector for the Baylor Bears, as he leads the Big 12 in blocked shots. He’s even better than Motley at the rim this season. Lual-Acuil Jr. is shooting 80% (EIGHTY) at the rim this season, and he gets there quite often too (45%). He does have trouble shooting free-throws, he’s only 52% from the line this year. Previously vs. Kansas, Lual-Acuil Jr. had 10 points, 8 boards and was 4-11 shooting.

Keys to Victory

  • Attack the Zone: Bill Self spoke about this on Thursday during his media session. The best way to beat a zone is going right it. They need to feed the ball to high post and let things open up from there. Josh Jackson will play a huge role in the high post, and running the base line in this game. Mason and Devonte’ Graham should be able to use their quickness to penetrate the zone, which will open up some perimeter shots…which brings me to the next point
  • Hit Outside Shots: Its simple, KU needs to make outside shots. Kansas was 45% in the meeting at Allen Fieldhouse, and subsequently came around victorious.
  • Defend, Defend, Defend: KU’s defensive performance vs. West Virginia was a bit overshadowed because of how bad the offense was. Kansas held WVU to 0.80 PPP in the second half. If the Jayhawks can come out with that kind defensive intensity on Saturday, things should go well.

Prediction

Kansas 75 – Baylor 71

Kansas and Baylor tend to play close games in Waco, and I don’t think this one will be any different. This one will come down to the wire, and in late game situations guard play comes to the forefront. I like KU’s backcourt more than Baylor’s. Mason and Graham will make more plays than Lecomte and Al Freeman, which will propel the Jayhawks to a victory.

I also like Kansas’ ability to score the ball better than Baylor’s. I like Josh Jackson to have a great game in the middle Baylor’s zone. KU will need to make outside shots, but they should be able to count on the likes of Mason, Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk for that.

All stats from: TeamRankings.com, HoopMath.com, KenPom.com, ESPN.com, KUAthletics.com, Big12Sports.com

Bobby Norell is a contributor for Rock Chalk Blog. View his archive, or follow him on Twitter.

Bobby Norell

My name is Bobby Norell. I'm from a small town in northern Indiana. I grew up a Notre Dame fan, as many of my family members graduated from there. I attend every home football game, and my fair share of basketball games. My Kansas fandom is something I brought upon myself when I was little. Around the time I was in first grade, Kirk Hinrich was leading Kansas to back-to-back Final Fours. I loved Hinrich those KU teams, and ever since they I've been hooked on Kansas basketball. I recently graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Sport Communication. Even though my diploma says I'm a Hoosier, my love for the Jayhawks has never wavered. They'll always come No.1. I'm excited for the opportunity here at Rock Chalk Blog. I hope to provide you with some thoughtful and informational analysis. Aside from my work here, you can catch some of my work at OneFootDown.com on SB Nation. There I cover Notre Dame football and basketball, as well as a little recruiting.