Kansas and Baylor are two teams headed in opposite directions right now. Kansas has won four straight Big 12 games against the best competition the conference has to offer, beating four ranked teams, two of them away from Allen Fieldhouse.
On Monday night, the Jayhawks, No. 8 in this week’s Associated Press poll, meet another Big 12 opponent that is nationally ranked. Only the Baylor Bears, who were ranked No. 7 just a couple of weeks back, have lost two games in a row and have fallen all the way back to No. 24 in this week’s rankings.
A trip to Allen Fieldhouse on ‘Big Monday’ is not necessarily the therapy the Bears (13-4, 1-3) had in mind for breaking out of their current funk. With three conference losses in the first four games of its Big 12 schedule, only one team (TCU) sits below Baylor in the league standings heading into Week three of conference play.
Allen Fieldhouse is where visiting teams go to lose, or at least that has been the case as long as Bill Self has been the head coach of the Jayhawks. Kansas has lost only nine times at home in Self’s 11 seasons. The Jayhawks have won 86 percent of the games played at the place they call “The Phog,” dating back to 1955, when the legendary basketball arena was opened. And if that’s not enough of a demotivator if you are a Baylor fan, Kansas is 27-1 at Allen Fieldhouse on Big Monday.
Kansas and Baylor both have deep benches and both are excellent rebounding teams. The Jayhwks have outrebounded 15 of their 17 opponents, but they will be well matched on the glass by a tall Baylor front line that has its own seven-footer, Isaiah Austin to match up with Kansas’ talented freshman Joel Embiid. Embiid leads the Jayhawks in rebounding, averaging almost eight a game. The Bears have two players in the top 10 in rebounding in the conference. Senior 6-9 forward Cory Jefferson averages over eight a game, and sophomore forward Rico Gathers is right behind, with just under eight per contest.
Both teams play good defense. The Bears are tall and long on the inside, which sets up their inside-out game. And when the ball swings out to the perimeter, Baylor can be lethal. They lead the Big 12 in three-point shooting, averaging close to 40 percent per game. Senior guard Brady Heslip sits just behind Oklahoma State’e Phil Forte in three-point shooting in the Big 12, and the Jayhawks got a good look Saturday at the damage Forte can do. The Oklahoma State long-range bomber fired in seven of 10 three-point shots on his way to a 23-point game.
Kansas is a better shooting team this season, averaging right at 50 percent, and has more offensive weapons. Blocked shots, which is an Embiid specialty, and steals are about even. Neither team handles the ball very well. Both are negative in that category. And if the game is close at the end, it could get interesting, as both teams shoot below 70 percent as a team from the free-throw line.
Another story line to keep in mind in watching this game is how well Jayhawk freshmen Andrew Wiggins, the No, 1 recruit in the country, and Wayne Selden rebound after scoring 12 points between them against Oklahoma State.
Four Things To Watch For In The Game
- The crowd effect. Allen Fieldhouse is one of the loudest arena’s in college basketball, and when the Jayhawks get on a run and the crowd get into the action, it can be devastating on isiting teams. Baylor is 0-11 all-time against Kansas when playing at Kansas.
- Baylor has won 31 of its last 33 games when leading at the half and is 52-3 since 2011-12 in games in which it has held the lead at the half. One of those three losses was last Saturday at home against Oklahoma.
- Both teams have outrebounded their opponents in 15 of their 17 games. The team that wins the rebounding battle will win this game.
- Baylor is a very good three-point shooting team, averaging over six made three-pointers per game. Kansas is very good defending perimeter shooters. If Baylor were able to get the best of this battle, this game could be very close.
Game prediction: Kansas 78, Baylor 66 – Kansas has too many weapons and too much talent and depth. Plus the Jayhawks are playing at home on Big Monday.