Getting to know: Baylor basketball
After getting the weekend off, No. 9 Kansas is set to face No. 2 Baylor in a Big Monday matchup in Waco, Texas. Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN.
The Jayhawks (10-3, 4-2 Big 12) had their home game against Iowa State postponed due to COVID-19 protocols in the ISU program. That means it has been nearly a week since KU dropped a 75-70 decision at Oklahoma State on Jan. 12.
Some extra rest could be a good thing because Baylor (12-0, 5-0 Big 12) is the last remaining undefeated Power Five program. BU is coming off a 68-60 road win over Texas Tech this past weekend. The Bears are the nation’s only team to win every game by at least eight points this season.
Eight of the previous 10 meetings between these two teams have been decided by eight points or less, but nobody seems to believe that will be the case this time around. KenPom gives Baylor a 80% chance of victory and a projected victory of 76-66.
Kansas opened as a 10-point underdog in Vegas, but that line is down to 8.5 points on FanDuel Sportsbook as of Monday afternoon.
Log on to KUsports.com for our live game blog coverage and follow the KUsports.com staff on Twitter: @KUSports @mctait @bentonasmith & @SJacksonLJW
BREAKING DOWN BAYLOR
No. 12 — G Jared Butler | 6-3, 195, jr.
It is no secret that any hope of stopping Baylor should begin with a game plan against Jared Butler.
Butler is back after becoming Baylor’s first underclassman to earn All-America or All-Conference first-team honors since 1980. And he’s even better this year. Butler ranks top-8 in the Big 12 in steals (1st), assists (3rd), scoring (5th), FG% (5th) and A-T ratio (8th).
Through 12 games, Butler is averaging 15.6 points per game to go along with 5.2 assists and 2.5 steals per contest. He’s shooting 47.2% from the floor, including a clip of 41.5% from beyond the arc.
Butler has 13 career games with at least 20 points, which includes a pair of 30-point performances. According to KenPom, Butler’s steal rate (5.0) ranks 17th in the nation and his assist rate (31.1) is 76th in the country.
No. 31 — G MaCio Teague | 6-4, 195, sr.
The difficult thing about defending Baylor is that containing Butler is not nearly enough. MaCio Teague is averaging 15.3 points per contest during his senior season. That clip ranks sixth in the Big 12 in scoring.
Teague has earned all-conference honors in all three collegiate seasons thus far, and likely will make it four for four. He was All-Big South First Team in 2017 and 2018 at UNC Asheville and All-Big 12 Second Team last year at Baylor.
Teague is the nation’s only active player with 1,500+ career points (1,653), 400+ rebounds (479), 225+ assists (244), 125+ steals (126) and 200+ made 3-pointers (250). He has also led the Bears in scoring in 11 of his last 24 games, which includes five different outings this season.
According to KenPom, Teague has a true shooting percentage of 60.3% and he plays 76.9% of Baylor’s minutes.
No. 45 — G Davion Mitchell | 6-2, 205, jr.
Back for another year as the starting point guard, Mitchell leads the conference in assists with an average of 5.9 per game.
Mitchell, who came off the bench for Auburn in 2017-18, has started in all 42 games at Baylor since joining the program. He was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year last season, while also earning a spot on the Big 12 All-Defensive Team and the All-Big 12 third team.
Mitchell also ranks second in the league in steals with an average of 2.2 per game. He’s made a 3-pointer in 30 of his last 38 games, shooting 37% from long range over that span.
Per KenPom, Mitchell has a true shooting percentage of 63.4% and ranks 131st in the nation in that department.
ONE THING BAYLOR DOES WELL
Baylor does a lot of things well, but 3-point shooting is the lone offensive category that Baylor is in the top-five on KenPom. The Bears are hitting 42.3% of their attempts from long range, which ranks fourth in the nation.
ONE AREA BAYLOR STRUGGLES
The Bears are allowing opposing teams to post a 9.4% block rate, a number that ranks 214th in the country. For comparison, the D1 average block rate is 8.8%. Yes, it was hard to come up with a way that Baylor struggles.
MEET THE COACH
The Bears are coached by Scott Drew, who is 354-213 in his 18th season at BU and 373-224 in 19th season overall.
This just feels like a trap. The Jayhawks are obviously never underdogs like this, and it almost feels like you are being tricked into taking the points because of that. At the same time, Baylor is a very good basketball team and there is a reason why it has won every game by at least eight points.
All that said, I’m falling for the trap. I’m taking the points for a Bill Self-led team coming off a loss and having a few extra days to prepare. There really is no other logic behind this pick.
Prediction: Baylor 78, Kansas 72