The Jayhawks (11-2) have won two straight and are coming off a 76-61 victory over UNLV Sunday in Allen Fieldhouse.
BU (11-2, 0-1) is looking to rebound after its 73-63 loss at Oklahoma on Saturday, where the Bears had their six-game winning streak snapped. Baylor redshirt freshman forward Johnathan Motley scored a season-high 24 points.
The Bears, whose only other loss this season was against Illinois (62-54) on Nov. 28, are 8-0 home in 2014-15. They average 70.0 points per game and boast a +13.9 scoring margin. Baylor averages 41.1 rebounds per game and rank second in the Big 12 with a +10.5 rebound margin. BU leads the league in three-point percentage defense (27.6 percent), while shooting 44.0 percent from the field and making 6.6 three-pointers per game. Baylor also averages 15.5 assists, 8.0 steals and 4.2 blocks per contest.
Junior forward Taurean Prince, who has made five starts, leads BU with 12.0 points per game and 21 three-pointers made, while also leading the Big 12 with 53.8 percent shooting from three-point range. Motley is next in scoring (10.8 ppg, team-high 21 blocks), followed by senior forward Royce O’Neale (10.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg), junior forward Rico Gathers (9.6 ppg, Big 12-best 10.6 rpg), junior guard Lester Medford (8.3 ppg, team-high 22 steals), senior guard Kenny Chery (8.2 ppg) and freshman guard Al Freeman (6.5 ppg).
Baylor is coached by Scott Drew, who is 205-152 in his 12th season at BU and 235-163 in his 13th season overall.
KU coach Bill Self is concerned about Baylor and knows the Jayhawks must contain their three-point shooting.
“I think everybody shoots them, even their big center (Motley) has shot 12 of them,” Self said. “Al Freeman (11 threes), we recruited, and he has really gotten in the groove shooting the ball from behind the arc and we know he's a great shooter.
“But they can all shoot. And then they have whenever Prince is making threes. I don't know how many he made against OU, I think he may have made three. But when he's making threes and they play him at the four, it obviously puts stress on your defense because they can stretch it.”
Self believes Motley has a great upside.
“He's one of those guys that was an athlete (in high school), and then they have obviously done a good job with him,” Self said. “He's gotten a lot better. He's a good basketball player. He has a really high ceiling.”
23 AND COUNTING
Kansas has won 23-straight conference openers dating back to the 1991-92 season with 13 of those road victories. The last time KU lost a conference opener was at Oklahoma, 88-82, on Jan. 8, 1991. This is the second-straight year and seventh time in Self’s 12 seasons at KU that the Jayhawks have opened Big 12 play on the road. This is also the first time Kansas will play Baylor in a conference opener.
BIG 12 THE BEST
KU will face loaded competition in the Big 12 this season. The Big 12 boasted the nation’s best non-conference record (104-22, .825). The league is the only conference in the nation that was at .800 or better this season. Six Big 12 teams are ranked in the top 25-- more than any conference in the nation. A league-record seven Big 12 teams were nationally ranked for the first time in conference history the week of Dec. 22.
Also, the Big 12 non-conference winning percentage is the best by any league since the 2004-05 season and only the second time that any conference has been over .800.
“Our league is such a monster,” Self said. “Every coach right now is a little uptight, I would think, just saying, ‘Oh, gosh, if we don't play well this game or that game or whatever, you're going to go home sad.’
“... I would say that there's probably 50 percent of the teams in our league, five, that have a legitimate shot of winning our league. ... There are multiple teams, but the great thing about it is, from my standpoint, if you're good enough to be considered in winning our league, you're probably good enough to be considered a contender to make a great run in the (NCAA) Tournament, too, because the league is so good.”
Kansas leads the all-time series with Baylor, 21-4, with the teams first meeting in 1951. KU has won three of the past five meetings as BU won, 81-72, in the semifinals of the 2012 Big 12 Championship in Kansas City and 81-58 in the 2013 regular-season finale for both teams in Waco.