It’s the biggest game of the year in college basketball, as the No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks head to Waco to take on the No. 1 Baylor Bears. With the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and a Big 12 regular season championship in the balance, the stakes could not be higher. And this is likely round two of what will be three, as both teams will remain on a collision course for a trilogy in the final of the Big 12 Tournament next month.
College basketball doesn’t get any better than this. Let’s take a closer look at the teams and the matchup.
No. 3 Kansas: 23-3, 12-1 Big XII, NET 4, KenPom 1
KU has two Wooden Award candidates in Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike. Dotson is possibly the best guard in college basketball, averaging 18.4 points and 4.1 rebounds and 4. 2 assists per game. He’s able to be a playmaker when needed (11 assists and TCU) and a scorer when called upon (29 points vs. Iowa State).
The senior Azubuike will be picked in the June NBA Draft, and is 7’ and 270 lbs of length and explosiveness. He’s a double-double machine at 12.8 points and 9.8 rebounds a game, and shoots a preposterous 72.7% from the field, good for third in the nation.
KU as a whole is 11th in adjusted offensive efficiency, and 2nd in defensive efficiency. They’ve held opponents over a quality schedule to just 43.4% eFG, and with three other starters with pro basketball careers coming in Marcus Garrett, Isaiah Moss, and Ochai Agbaji, they’ll have all the weapons to get it done.
The computers like Kansas a bit more than the bookmakers, probably due to the strength of victory as well as scoring margin against elite opponents.
No. 1 Baylor: 24-1, 13-0 Big XII, NET 2, KenPom 2
Even with two more losses to Kansas, there’s a decent chance BU can still be on the No. 1 line come Selection Sunday. Their length and athleticism on defense is elite, with the third-best adjusted defense in the NCAA, but only the 22nd-ranked offense. If there’s an area where Baylor is vulnerable, it’s perimeter scoring: they’re a somewhat pedestrian 35% from three-point range, and they get a shot blocked in 13% of their possessions, one of the worst rates in college basketball.
Guards Jared Butler and MaCio Teague take most of the usage rate, combining to score 30 points a game for a team that averages 71.2 per outing. Teague is listed as questionable with a wrist injury, but it’s pretty likely he goes.
#Baylor guard MaCio Teague is questionable for Saturday’s game, I know. He’s a game-time decision with a wrist injury he suffered in Austin last week.— Kurtis Quillin (@KurtisQuillin) February 22, 2020
But, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t play tomorrow against #Kansas. Even if he just opens the lane more on off., he’s VALUABLE
But where BU excels is getting stops: they hold opponents to 43.5% eFG and force a turnover in 22.5% of possessions.
The line: Baylor -2, Over/Under 126.5
KenPom has the Ferrell Center as a 3.4 point home court advantage, so despite being the No. 1 team by the polls, it’s likely KU would be favored on a neutral floor. But today’s matchup is in Waco, and will be sold out and loud as possible.
Baylor’s 67-55 win in Phog Allen Fieldhouse on January 11th saw Kansas get outplayed in two key areas: three-point shooting (BU 8-19, KU 4-15) and turnovers (BU 5, KU 14). If that holds again, it should be a big win for the home team. But KU is playing their best basketball as of late, as shown by the computer power ratings. This should be a physical, knockdown battle, and the team that makes the most perimeter shots probably goes home the winner.
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