#2 Baylor (20-1) visits #3 Kansas (19-2) in a midweek thriller between two top dogs in the Big 12 conference at 9 o’clock tonight. For the first time in a long time, Kansas’ BIG 12 win streak, currently at 11 wins, might be in jeopardy. The winner of this matchup will earn sole possession of first place inside the conference. Accordingly, this game has significant relevance for both teams.
Baylor is lead by one of the best bigs in the country, Johnathan Motley. Motley averages 16.2 PPG and 9.6 RPG, also attempting to strengthen his case for BIG 12 player of the year. Otherwise, this Baylor squad is one that is very experienced, with upperclassman leading their charge. Juniors Manu Lecomte (12.3 PPG, 2 RPG, 4.4 APG), Al Freeman (10.2 PPG), and Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. (10.1 PPG and 7.2 RPG) also factor into the scoring department for Baylor. Both Lecomte and Lual-Acuil Jr. are making great impacts as transfers into the program. However, it is not their offense that makes them a difficult matchup for Kansas, but their elite defense. With different defensive formations, ranging from man pressure to 1-3-1 zone, they boast the 5th defensive efficiency ranking, per Pomeroy. The key player for Baylor is Ishmail Wainright, who makes his impact on the defensive end, as well as through hustle plays. While only averaging 5.6 PPG, his impact will still be crucial in this game, potentially having the task of locking down Josh Jackson.
Kansas has made their mark with potentially the best backcourt in the county. Frank Mason III (19.9 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 5.1 APG), Josh Jackson (15.7 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 3.1 APG), and Devonte’ Graham (13.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 4.5 APG) all can explode on any individual night. Kansas’ Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk spaces the floor, shooting a solid 41.5% 3 point percentage. They will be without big-man Carlton Bragg Jr. due to his recent suspension, making them rely more on Landen Lucas (7.6 PPG and 7.9 RPG). Kansas’ offense is ranked 6th in the country by Pomeroy, creating a prime matchup between each teams’ strength. While Baylor wins games by getting stops on the defensive end, Kansas wins by putting the ball in the bucket at a high and efficient pace. Without Carlton Bragg Jr., Lucas’s presence will be even more essential, as well as his ability to limit Lual Acuil Jr. and Motley on the boards. Kansas must focus their efforts on preventing Baylor from getting offensive rebounds and second-chance points.
This might be a game based on whose strength will break first. That might be Baylor’s defense, as it can be extremely difficult to prevent Kansas’ runs when attending Allen Fieldhouse. They must maintain crafty with their defensive looks, attempting to stall Kansas’ offensive production. If Kansas shoots the ball well from deep, which they are more than capable of doing, Baylor’s zones might get dismantled. While Baylor’s strength might be penetrated they can make up for it by staying consistent on the offensive glass. This is potentially where they could make up for lost opportunities. However, in the end it will be Kansas that prevails to a victory at home, gaining sole place of the conference.
Kansas 74, Baylor 69