Game 26: No. 2 Baylor at No. 17 Kansas – Preview and Prediction

A fabulous opportunity sits in front of the No. 17 Kansas Jayhawks this weekend, as they host the undefeated No. 2 Baylor Bears. KU is coming off a hard-fought-but-frustrating loss to Texas on Tuesday night, while Baylor surprisingly squeaked by lowly Iowa State by a score of 77-72. Due to COVID, that is the lone game Baylor has played over the last 25 days. This is a golden opportunity for KU to secure a top-four seed in the NCAA tournament, but a tall, tall task stands in front of them in their quest to accomplish that.

  • Saturday, February 27th, 2021, 7:00 PM CDT
  • Allen Fieldhouse – Lawrence, Kan. 
  • ESPN
  • It’s Senior Night for Kansas. Beginning in 1983-84, Kansas has won a mind-boggling 37 consecutive Senior Nights.
  • Kansas is 11-6 in Big 12 play, which is the most wins in the league and one victory more than league-leading Baylor (10-0). With a 64.7 league winning percentage, KU is third behind West Virginia (69.2%) in the Big 12 standings with both trailing Baylor
  • Baylor will be the 13th Associated Press ranked team Kansas will play in 2020-21. KU is 6-6 versus ranked opponents this season and its 12 games are tied with Northwestern for the most in NCAA DI this season. KU’s six wins are tied for the most in NCAA Division I with Iowa and Michigan.
  • Since Bill Self’s first season, the Jayhawks are 16-5 against AP top-10 teams inside Allen Fieldhouse, including 2-1 this season.
  • With its win against Texas Tech (2/20), KU has now won 11 league games for the 27th consecutive season. The current 27-year streak with 10-plus league wins is the longest active streak in the nation. KU has won 10 or more conference games 58 times overall.
  • Kansas is No. 12 in NET nationally in strength of schedule among the 357 teams listed. Kansas’ NET is No. 17, which is third in the conference. 
  • Redshirt-freshman Jalen Wilson is third in the Big 12 in rebounding at 8.2 rpg. His nine double-doubles are second overall in the Big 12. He has six double-doubles in the last seven games.

Bears to Watch

Jared Butler – 6’3”, senior, guard

Butler leads the Bears at 17.1 PPG, 2.4 SPG and is second on the team in assists at 5.1 APG. He has been on a tear over his last five games, as he’s averaging 18 PPG and shooting 43 percent from three point lane. For the season, Butler is third on the Bears in three-point shooting with a 43.5 percent mark. Butler torched KU for 30 points in the first matchup. He has been a Jayhawk killer over his career, scoring 116 points in five lifetime games against Kansas.

Davion Mitchell – 6’2”, junior, guard

Mitchell and Butler form perhaps the best backcourt in the Big 12. Mitchell is third on the team in scoring at 13.4 PPG and leads the Bears at 5.7 APG. He is also shooting an eye-popping 48.4 percent from three-point land this year, a common theme among this Baylor team. 

Jayhawk Pick to Click

Ochai Agbaji – 6’5”, junior, guard

Agbaji is coming off two strong performances, and he really has been Kansas’ most consistent player all year long. It’s been double-figures almost every night for Agbaji. Against Texas on Tuesday, the junior guard had 17 points and was 5-11 from three — an amount of attempts he should be taking each game. In the initial meeting against Baylor, Agbaji had 16 points and drained four threes. I look for another strong scoring performance out of the Jayhawk guard. 

Prediction

Let’s start with some things that KU could exploit here. Baylor has played one game in the last 25 days, and that was on Tuesday, as they squeaked by Iowa State, the worst team in the Big 12 (and probably all power five leagues). Naturally, some rust was expected and perhaps they took the Cyclones too lightly. I suspect some of that rust to still be there when they square off with the Jayhawks on Saturday night. You don’t play just one time in 25 days and expect to be the same team.

There’s also the historical trends. Baylor is 1-15 lifetime in Allen Fieldhouse. This is KU’s first game as a home underdog since 1989, which is astonishing. KU hasn’t lost a Senior Night game since 1983! They’ve only lost 15 total times at home under Bill Self in 18 years. I know that the building isn’t full due to covid, but the combination of Baylor winning in Lawrence and the Jayhawks falling at Allen Fieldhouse are remarkably uncommon.

A massive challenge sits in front of Kansas. Baylor has one of the five best offenses and defenses in college basketball. They’re the best three-point shooting team out there, with an incredible five different guards that shoot at least 40% from deep. But Kansas’ defense has become one of the country’s best units over the second half of conference play. Back in January when Baylor beat Kansas by eight at home, KU did a good job on the defensive end, despite Butler going off and making seven threes (most of which were tightly guarded). The Bears are big and athletic down low, which was a problem for David McCormack last game. However, he will be the tallest player for most of the game. KU needs him to avoid foul trouble. KU needs to shoot the ball well. KU needs to guard the line better than they did the previous matchup.

And even though the logic may not make sense, and the matchup isn’t particularly promising… I’m going with the Jayhawks to win at home. I think Baylor’s time off hurts them here, and I think KU grinds one out, just barely, somehow, someway.

Marcus Garrett will be the lone senior honored on Saturday night, as Mitch Lightfoot and Chris Teahan announced they’ll be back for another year next season. He hasn’t ruled out a return to Lawrence next season, but if this is it for him… I can’t think of a better send off than a win over undefeated Baylor. I look to him to be a huge key on Saturday night and put one last exclamation point on his Kansas career. We’ve long called Allen Fieldhouse one of the biggest home court advantages. Let’s see if it has some magic in the conference finale.

Kansas 72, Baylor 68
KU +5

AUDIO PREVIEW: LINK

Season Record: 18-7 (14-11 ATS)

Bobby Norell

My name is Bobby Norell. I'm from a small town in northern Indiana. 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.