With back to back losses to teams that the Bears were favored to beat, they are in a bad spot right now. Just 1 win in their first 4 Big 12 conference games, they now have their biggest test of the season upon them with a quick turnaround game at Kansas against one of the most talented teams in the country. The Bears fortunes in Lawrence, KS has not been very fun, with their last two trips ending in 18 and 17 point losses that were not really in doubt after the first few minutes.
|Date||Jan. 20, 2014| 8:00 p.m. CT|
|Radio||ESPN Central Texas|
|Online Audio||Listen Online|
Outside of Kentucky, there might not be as naturally as gifted of a team that the Bears will see than Kansas. They feature two of the best freshman in a loaded freshman class, and have a lineup loaded with potential NBA players. Andrew Wiggins is the big name, as the top ranked freshman coming into the year. He has an NBA game, with a tremendous offensive arsenal. He is their leading scorer at 15 points per game. Joel Embiid is the man that everyone is talking about recently though. He has turned his game up another level the past month, scoring in double figures in 7 of his last 8 games, pulling down at least 9 rebounds in 5 of 6 games, and just being about the most dominating rim protector in college basketball. This is the most talented frontcourt in college basketball.
The backcourt is still good, but not to the extent of their frontcourt. Naadir Tharpe struggled for most of the season, before turning it on the past few games. He has broken 20 points in the Kansas wins over Iowa State and Oklahoma State. His outside shooting has been a key to that, having made 13 of his last 26 shots from behind the arc, and that includes an 0-5 and a 1-5 game.
The Jayhawks have all five starters scoring at least 9.75 points per game, but they do have some good weapons on their bench. Tarik Black, a transfer from Memphis, and Jamari Taylor are the main post players off of the bench, with Taylor being more of a defender with some rebounding abilities. Frank Taylor is the top guard off the bench, and has spelled Tharpe quite a bit at the point guard spot.
The Bears get the benefit from the polls simply because they have not updated yet (as of writing). Once those two polls are updated with the last week's results, the Jayhawks will easily catapult past the Bears. Kansas is one of the best teams in the nation, and will more than likely find them in the Top 10 after dispatching Iowa State and Oklahoma State, the two other top teams in the Big 12. In fact, the Jayhawks have a chance to beat each of the three top ranked teams when Big 12 play started.
Outside of the Bears dominance on the offensive glass, every category goes to the Jayhawks. They are one of the best shooting teams in the country from all over the court. They shoot 2-point shots at an incredible rate and are slightly above average from behind the arc. They are also very good at getting to the foul line and are a strong team from there as well.
|Points Per Possession||1.18||10||1.0||104|
|Effective FG %||54.2%||40||45.6%||66|
|Points Per Possession||1.01||125||1.14||32|
|Effective FG %||46.6%||88||55.3%||24|
While the Bears have a very good offense, the Jayhawks offense is as good as any in the country, especially the past few games. They have scored at least 77 points in their past 4 games, and outside of the San Diego State game, they have scored more than that in 7 straight games. They are very efficient in the paint and can score from the mid-range very well. Kansas isn't a great 3-point shooting team, but has three guys that can stretch the floor in Tharpe, Wayne and Wiggins. The Jayhawks don't score a lot from behind the arc, as only 20.8% of their points are from 3-pointers (297th in the country).
The Jayhawks are also not the defensive team most have come to expect from a Bill Self coached squad. While they still block a very high percentage of shots (16.6%, 10th in the nation), they don't force turnovers at all (30th worst at 15.6%) and are not as strong as they usually are against 3-point shooters. However, they still have really good interior defense that doesn't allow a lot of points close. They are not defending the 2-point shot at an elite level like they have the past few years, but they are still very good.
Keys to the Game
1. No long droughts – Long droughts are an unfortunate staple of the Baylor attack the past few years. They have let this droughts hurt them in big games, especially against Kansas. In Saturday's loss to Oklahoma, they opened up the 2nd half with a basket to stretch the lead to 8, but would not score for about 5 minutes, while Oklahoma would take an 8 point lead. They have struggled with extended droughts in the past against Kansas on the road, especially last year where they went 4 minutes in the first half with no points that saw the KU lead grow from 3 to 13 and put the Bears away early. Simply put, Baylor cannot have these long droughts against an offensively gifted team like Kansas, especially in their home court where they thrive off of these big runs.
2. Win the battle inside – The last two games, the Baylor posts have not taken advantage of their greater size and strength down low against undersized opponents. The Oklahoma duo of Ryan Spangler and Cameron Clark finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds while the Bears duo finished with 23 points and 17 rebounds. With Clark really being a small forward or guard, Jefferson and Austin did not fully capitalize on their advantage. Against Texas Tech, the best post player on the court was a Red Raider who had been benched for most of the year in Dejan Kravic who finished with 14 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists. Baylor got a paltry 12 points and 5 rebounds from Austin and Jefferson combined.
Against Kansas, they will not have the advantage of size or even skill. This is one of the best front courts in the nation, as good as the one from Kentucky that Baylor did outplay. That is the effort and results the Bears need Monday night.
3. Limit Tharpe – When Naadir Tharpe is playing well and making big shots, Kansas is about as unbeatable as you can imagine. He was pretty average to start the year, as the Jayhawks stumbled out of the gate with a 6-3 record. But since their loss to San Diego State at home on January 5th, the junior point guard has had 3 monster games. He had 17 points against Oklahoma in a 90-83 win. He had 23 points in the Jayhawks win against Iowa State, and also chipped in 21 points Saturday in their win over Oklahoma State. He is the driver of a very powerful car. Baylor's Kenny Chery has to be the best point guard on the court for the Bears to have a chance.
KenPom.com – Kansas wins 76-66 (16% chance for win)
Massey.com – Kansas wins 78-67 (14% chance for win)
RealTime RPI – Kansas wins 82-74
Tim Watkins BearsIllustrated.com Writer– Kansas wins 81-67
For the third year in a row, the Bears will go to Kansas for a Big Monday game. It speaks to the profile of the Bears to get a marquee spot on a perennial powers schedule. But sometimes, it would be really nice to get a Wednesday night game or maybe even a Saturday afternoon that is a bit more under the radar. But the Bears get no benefit like that. They get Kansas on the big stage in front of the nation again, where they have simply not done very well. Kansas is playing as well as any team in the nation right now, and the Bears are scuffling. This could get ugly, especially if the Bears start missing 3-pointers like they did against Oklahoma.