"They are who we thought they were". That immortal quote from Arizona football coach Denny Green rings in my ears when I look at the Kansas State Wildcats since the Baylor Bears last saw them in mid-January. That ugly 63-61 loss for the Bears put the Wildcats at a shocking 4-1 in conference play. They had already beaten a Top-20 team on the road in Oklahoma and looked to be the surprise team of the Big 12, especially after a lackluster non-conference schedule that saw them drop games to Long Beach State and Texas Southern. Now though, they have lost 7 of their last 9 games since that win over the Bears, and have seen their record drop to 14-17 overall, and just 7-11 in Big 12 play.
|No. 20 Baylor (19-7, 7-6) vs. Kansas State (13-14, 6-8)|
|Date||Feb. 21, 2015 | 12:00 p.m. CT|
|Location||Waco. TX. / Ferrell Center (10,284)|
|Radio||ESPN Central Texas|
|Online Audio||Listen Online|
Fun Stats of the Game
- Baylor's current 59.5 ppg allowed is its lowest season average in 57 years (59.1 ppg in 1958-59). The last time Baylor allowed fewer than 64.0 ppg in a season was 1985-86 (61.2).
- BU is seeking its 7th 20-win season in the last 8 years. BU had only three 20-win seasons prior to Drew's arrival.
- Kansas State is very good at getting to the free throw line ranking 5th in free throw rate per game.
- Baylor ranks 2nd in the Big 12 Conference and 24th nationally in scoring defense (59.9).
Keys to the Game
1. Get the Game Moving - These are two of the slower paced teams in the Big 12, with Kansas State at 298th in tempo according to KenPom. The Bears aren't much quicker at 284th, but they are a much better team when they can get into the open court and make something happen in transition; especially at home. Baylor has to turn the Wildcats over, and usually Kansas State is willing to oblige that request. They are 291st in turnover % on the season, giving the ball up on over 21% of their possessions. They turned it over on 22.6% of their possessions earlier in the year, but the Bears could convert the 15 turnovers into 18 points. A faster pace should favor the Bears, and give their offense more opportunities.
2. Get Rico Going - Simply put, Ricardo Gathers is the heart and soul of the Bears. When he is dominating the glass and making things happen on both ends of the court, the Bears are a much better team. With him under the weather against Texas Tech, we saw what happens when the heart of your team is struggling. Rico gutted out a tough but ineffective 30 minutes that saw him just take 3 shots, scoring 2 points and grabbing just 6 rebounds. Baylor won't win many games with Gathers limited to that type of impact. With him feeling more like himself, the Bears need to get him involved early, and reward him for his effort earlier this week. Get him some post touches and shots early and let's see the beastly Rico once again.
3. Attack the Paint - The Wildcats are not a very tall team in the paint, with Nino Williams going 6-foot-5, and Thomas Gipson going 6-foot-7. The Bears have struggled against taller defenders in the past, but that should not be an issues against he Wildcats. They do bring good size off the bench in Stephen Hurt and Brandon Bolden (both 6-foot-11), but Hurt is the only one that plays significany minutes, and he still only get around 30% of the available minutes. Williams and Gipson are the two main guys, with small forward Wesley Iwundu sometimes sliding down to be a power forward. Baylor has to get the ball down low and force Kansas State to double the post, or go over the top of the smaller defender. If they do double, there should be open shooters on the perimeter waiting.
What Happened Last Time?
The Bears traveled to Manhattan, Kansas and laid an egg. With Kenny Chery and Taurean Prince combining for 41 points, the rest of the Bears had just 20 points on 6-27 shooting. Baylor only had 13 offensive rebounds, and just 13 second chance points, extremely low for a team that shot 38% from the field. Kansas State shot 50% on the day, with a much more balanced attack that saw four players score at least 8 points. The Bears wasted a 12 point lead as the Wildcats hit some big free throws late to secure the win as Kenny Chery's runner in the lane was no good.
KenPom.com – Baylor wins 68-56 (89% chance for win)
Massey.com – Baylor wins 67-55 (88% chance for win)
RealTime RPI – Baylor wins 74-56
Tim Watkins BearsIllustrated.com Writer– Baylor wins 72-59
Kansas State is playing awful basketball right now, even with Marcus Foster back from injury the last two games in a slightly limited role. With the Bears ending their 2-game losing streak against Texas Tech, they get probably the two weakest teams in the Big 12 in back-to-back games. Baylor has been a very good home team this year, despite their performance last time against Oklahoma State. I expect a big win for the Bears here, as they get their "mojo" back, see some shots fall and turn the Wildcats over quite a bit to set up their fastbreak offense.