Bears Head to Manhattan

The Baylor Bears will travel to Manhattan Kansas Wednesday to take on the Kansas State Wildcats at 8:00 on ESPN2. See here how breaks it down.

The Kansas State Wildcats (11-6, 0-3) have struggled in the early going this Big 12 conference season, as they struggle to find their identity with departed superstars Michael Beasley and Bill Walker. But that doesn't mean they won't be ready as the #23 Baylor Bears (14-3, 2-1) bring their nationally ranked team on the road.

Kansas State has been pretty tough at home, going 10-1 with their only loss to #5 Oklahoma. But they are coming off 3 straight losses to start conference season, which is much different than last year when they started 5-0.

Schedule Talk

As I mentioned above, Kansas State is currently on a 3 game losing streak. Interestingly, all of their wins and losses have come in streaks this year - starting the year 5-0, then losing 3 in a row, then winning the next 6 to go 11-3, before losing this last 3. It's difficult to call any of their wins so far "big wins," but Baylor would certainly give them that opportunity and would be by far their biggest win on the season.

In non-conference, Kansas State lost by 2 to Iowa (who is on their own 3 game losing streak in the Big 10), by 5 to Oregon (who is on a 6 game losing streak in the Pac 10), and a semi-respectable Kentucky team by 2. Their in-conference losses were at home to Oklahoma, and on the road at Kansas and Nebraska.

The Wildcats and Bears have one common opponent thus far, but it's hardly worth comparing - both blew out Centenary in non-conference play.

This is a completely different team this year with the loss of Beasley and Walker, so it's difficult to compare what went on last year to this year. Having said that, Kansas State was very stingy at home in conference last year (7-1), with their only loss coming to Texas. That 7-1 home conference record included wins over eventual national champion Kansas and then tournament bound Texas A&M. Baylor meanwhile was able to pull off 4 road wins in conference last year, including 2 against the North (Colorado and Nebraska).

Players Talk

Kansas State is led by sophomore guard Jacob Pullen, who is averaging 13.7 points per game to along with 3.5 assists. Pullen had a 3 game stretch earlier in the season in which he scored over 20 points in each game, including the close losses to Kentucky and Iowa. The problem was in the Kentucky game it took him 13 3 point attempts to get to the 20 point mark for the game. The Bears should match up well with the 6'0" Pullen as he does many of the same things Baylor's guards do, but doesn't present the height challenge some of the other teams have presented. Their only other double digit scorer (on average) is 6-1 junior guard Denis Clemente. After sitting out last year, he is seeing his best year as a wildcat, putting up 12.4 points to go along with 3 assists and 2 rebounds per game. Like Pullen, the Bears should match up just fine with Clemente. Neither Pullen nor Clemente shoot with the accuracy the Bears faced in their last game against Oklahoma State.

The majority of the rest of Kansas State's minutes should go to about 6 players, all who average about 18 to 20 minutes and anywhere from 5 to 9.8 points per game. Ron Anderson, the 6-8 sophomore, is leading the Wildcats in rebounding at 6.1 per game, and 6-10 senior Darren Kent isn't too far behind at 5.8. Their deadliest 3 point shooter is Fred Brown - who is shooting 42.5% from the 3 point line. Between Kent and 6-10 Luis Colon, the Wildcats don't tend to go as big as Baylor who occassionaly will play 7 footers Josh Lomers and Mamadou Diene. It will be interesting to see if Scott Drew opts to go small again starting Quincy Acy and Kevin Rogers - or if he reverts back to the starting lineup with Diene. No matter who starts, after his performance against Oklahoma State, and if he can stay out of foul trouble, expect to see a big dose of Quincy Acy again from the Bears.

Team Comparisons

After looking at the conference rankings for the past several games, they start to take on more meaning as teams play more legitimate opponents.

Here are some key statistical categories that stand out to me: scoring offense (Baylor 3, K-State 7 - about 6 points a game difference), scoring defense (K-State 5, Baylor 10 - about 4 points a game difference), field goal percentage (Baylor 1, K-State 9), free throw percentage (K-State 12), and 3 point field goal percentage (Baylor 3, K-State 8). Once again, the stats are not too surprising to the casual observer - Baylor is very good on offense, but still has much to prove on defense. Kansas State meanwhile, needs some work on their offensive efficiency, but does appear to be holding opponents to less points per game than Baylor. When you look at FG% defense, which is a better basis to compare defenses - Kansas State is 6th in the league at 39.9% and Baylor is 8th at an even 41%. It will be important for Baylor not to let Kansas State get too comfortable on their home court by slacking on defense, which is how it appeared they started the A&M game in College Station last week. But if they do get hot early, Baylor needs to remember that top 5 Oklahoma was only up 3 at the half in Manhattan, before eventually winning by 8. Any road win in the Big 12 will be key for Baylor.

Another area where Baylor has been hurt is rebounding - which could be a problem against Kansas State, who currently ranks first in the conference in rebounding defense, first in rebounding margin, first in offensive rebounds and second in overall rebounds. Interestingly, they are 10th in defensive rebounds (compared to 7th for Baylor) which could indicate opponents simply aren't missing as many shots as Kansas State is on its own end.

Last Time Out

Last year's game between Baylor and Kansas State is an odd one to analyze. Baylor won 92-86 in Waco, but that doesn't begin to tell the story. The Bears opted to let (or they could not stop) Michael Beasley and Bill Walker get their points, finishing with 44 and 31, respectively. The problem of course was no one else got to take many shots, and only 3 other field goals were scored by the entire rest of the team. Baylor meanwhile had 5 guys in double figures, 4 of which are back on this year's team (Kevin Rogers, Curtis Jerrells, Tweety Carter, and Lacedarius Dunn). Jerrells especially proved a tough matchup for the Wildcats, finishing with 24 points and 7 assists. The Bears took a 9 point lead in the second half, only to see it back down to 2 with a few minutes remaining. Baylor's last 5 points came at the free throw line as it held on for the win.

Summary and Projection

Kansas State is a team that is struggling right now to find an identity, and Baylor needs to jump on that quickly to try to take away any confidence. Nebraska was able to do that in Lincoln and eventually build a substantial lead last game against Kansas State - so the Bears will try to duplicate that. If the Bears are unable to build an early lead, then chances are Kansas State will hang close on their home court - like they did against Oklahoma. Look for Baylor to push the ball and use its speed and athleticism to try to win this ball game and get their 3rd conference win of the season.

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