NCAA Monday Night Basketball: Baylor/Kansas Preview

by Alec McMordie

The nightcap for ESPN’s Big Monday college basketball double-header is a heavyweight showdown between two Big 12 teams ranked in the top-six nationally.

Baylor ranks second in the Associated Press poll with a 12-0 record. The Bears last played on Saturday when they pulled away from Texas Tech to earn a 68-60 win in Lubbock as a 4.5-point favorite. Jared Butler took over late by nailing two 3-pointers that helped Baylor pull away from the Red Raiders. The junior leads the team with a 15.6 points-per-game scoring average. He also adds 5.2 assists-per-game.

Butler is amongst six players that score at least 8.8 points-per-game for the Bears. Head coach Scott Drew has a deep rotation with nine players averaging at least 14 minutes per game. Drew had six players return from last year's rotation that finished 26-4.

Baylor has high-profile victories against Illinois and Oklahoma, in addition to the win against Texas Tech over the weekend. That 8-point victory against the Red Raiders was the closest game they have played all season. Yet it was also the second-straight game where they did not score at least 76 points. The Bears had averaged 91.2 points-per-game in their first ten games.

Baylor has the fourth-best offense in adjusted offensive efficiency according to the numbers at kenpom. They are also fourth in the country with a 42.3% shooting percentage from 3-point land. The Bears rank eighth by rebounding 38.2% of their missed shots. Drew’s team is the top-ranked team in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They force turnovers in 26.9% of their opponent’s possessions, which is third best.

If there was a weakness to this team, it might start with their defensive rebounding. Baylor allows their opponents to rebound 28.9% of their missed shots, 211th in the nation. The Bears do not get as many freebies on the charity stripe given a free throw rate that is 206th.

Kansas last played on Tuesday when they were upset at Oklahoma State, 75-70, as a 3.5-point favorite. Head coach Bill Self was not happy with his team’s effort on defense, describing his players as “slow” and that they “did not guard.” The Jayhawks allowed 37 fast break opportunities for the Cowboys. Kansas also struggled to shoot the basketball as they missed 16 of their 21 shots from 3-point land. They turned the ball over 15 times while assisting on just nine baskets.

David McCormack was a bright spot for the Jayhawks with his 24 points and 12 rebounds. The junior forward has scored 20.3 points-per-game in his last three games with 7.0 rebounds-per-game and 2.5 blocks per game.

Kansas is led in scoring by Ochai Agbaji with his 14.7 points-per-game average. The junior has made 22 shots from 3-point land in his last seven games. His 42.7% shooting mark from downtown is tops in the Big 12.

Despite Agbaji’s efforts, the Jayhawks make only 31.7% of their 3-pointers in conference play, the eighth lowest in the Big 12. Kansas can struggle to score baskets. Their 48.7% shooting percentage inside the arc this season is 211th. The kenpom adjusted offensive efficiency numbers do rank the Jayhawks 23rd in the nation. They pull down 35.1% of their misses, 23rd best in the country. They rank 10th in adjusted defensive efficiency.

Kansas ranks sixth in the nation in the AP poll with a 10-3 record. Their three losses were against number-one ranked Gonzaga as well as Texas and their setback to Oklahoma State. The Jayhawks have quality victories against Creighton, West Virginia, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma.

The COVID postponements Kansas experienced since their game with the Cowboys has presented Self with more practice time to prepare for Baylor. Five-star freshman Bryce Thompson remains out with his finger injury.

BookMaker lists Baylor as an 8.5-point favorite with the total set at 148. The ESPN broadcast starts at 9 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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