The Jayhawks (11-2) come into this matchup with only two losses, one forgivable and one bizarre. Kansas was dominated in every facet of the game by a Kentucky team that should be among the leaders when it comes to competing for a national championship.
However, the other loss came against a mediocre Temple team only three games ago. The Jayhawks lost 77-52 after allowing Temple to shoot 58.3 percent from the floor and turning the ball over a whopping 17 times.
Kansas is ranked No. 10 compared to Baylor’s No. 21, but the KenPom rankings have this game eve closer. The Bears are actually ranked No. 18 in the country, against Kansas’ No. 19.
Kansas won the Big 12 once again last season, but has struggled to maintain the same level of success as in previous years. The two highest rated freshman recruits, Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre, have both been unspectacular out of the gates.
The Jayhawks are ranked No. 18 in offensive efficiency by KenPom, and have a balanced attack that features only two players who average double-figures. Perry Ellis leads the team with 13.0 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game, down from 54.9 only one season ago.
A player who has emerged as a lead prospect for Kansas is sophomore guard Frank Mason III. After 13 games, Mason is only 30 points shy of reaching his scoring plateau from last season. This year, he is averaging 12.4 points per game on a blazing 49.1 percent from the floor and 51. 4 percent from three.
Keys to the Game
1. Win the turnover battle – Kansas is still a young team, and mistake prone. In the loss to Temple, the Jayhawks turned the ball over 17 times, and they average 13 turnovers per game. Baylor is also a team that has historically struggled with turnovers, and the Bears need to ensure they don’t create easy opportunities for Kansas to show off their athleticism.
2. Move the ball – Baylor has one of the most balanced offensive attacks in the country, which features three players in double-figures and several others right on the cusp. The power of Baylor’s offense is its unpredictability: any player can go off on a given day. Unlike previous years where you can try to shut down an individual, you have to guard all five players on the court. Make Kansas have to adjust and guard all five players.
3. Dominate the boards – Kansas does not have a player who truly dominates the boards; in fact, Ellis leads the team with only 6.6 rebounds per game. It will be wildly important for Rico Gathers and Johnathan Motley to dominate on the boards and create second-chance opportunities for the Bears. Make Kansas miss the size of Joel Embiid from last season.
Kansas is always a vaunted opponent, but the Bears are getting it early in the season while it is still going through the development process. If the Bears can use their defense and a balanced offensive attack to confuse the Jayhawks, then Baylor will have a great shot to hold court at home.
Final score: Baylor 66, Kansas 64