Baylor vs. Kansas. No 2 vs. No. 3. It’s just the second top-5 matchup we’ve had all season. The Jayhawks of course won the first, a 79-73 victory in Rupp Arena against Kentucky last week.
History is not on the Bears’ side. Kansas is 27-4 all time against Baylor and a staggering 14-0 against the Bears at Allen Fieldhouse. Just one of those games was even in single digits.
That hasn't swayed the Jayhawks from getting pumped up about the 32nd matchup between the two teams.
"It's not very often you get to host a top-five team at home,” Kansas coach Bill Self said, according to ABC News. "We were able to do that last year in an epic game.”
That epic game was then-No. 1 Kansas’ triple-OT 109-106 win over No. 2 Oklahoma, perhaps the best game of last year’s regular season. There might be stiffer competition for that title this season (especially after last week’s complete chaos), but don’t be surprised if this matchup reaches “epic” status as well.
Here’s how the two squads match up:
|No. 2 Baylor||No. 3 Kansas|
|75.3||Points Per Game||84.3|
|61.1||Opponents Points Per Game||71.1|
|38.4||Rebounds Per Game||40|
|30||Opponents Rebounds Per Game||34.4|
|38.3%||Opponents Field-Goal Percentage||41.3%|
|30.5%||Opponents 3-Point Percentage||35.7%|
On the offensive side, there's not a single stat that Kansas doesn't have the edge in. The Jayhawks have the eighth-best 3-point percentage in the country, the ninth-best field-goal percentage, and the 16th-most points per game.
But that offense has sputtered a bit in Kansas' biggest matchups this year. The Jayhawks’ have only managed 81 points per game in their four matchups with ranked teams this year. In fact, though Kansas is 2-2 against ranked teams this season, it has been outscored 336-324 in those games.
Both of the Jayhawks losses did come at either a neutral or away site. At home, Kansas is 10-0 this year, and the Jayhawks score 10 more points per game at Allen Fieldhouse than when playing elsewhere.
Baylor on the other hand is 5-1 this year against ranked teams. The Bears’ only loss of the season came against No. 10 West Virginia on Jan. 10, one day after Baylor received the program’s first-ever No. 1 ranking in the AP poll.
This game, however, should be the Bears toughest of the season yet. A large part of that has to do with the fact that Baylor hasn’t seen a backcourt like the power duo Kansas boasts. Frank Mason III and Josh Jackson have combined for 35.6 points, 8.1 assists and 11 rebounds per game so far this year. Mason is somehow shooting better from outside of the arc (51.6 percent) than inside, where the sophhomore guard is still more than competent at 51.1 percent.
But if any team can slow down those two, it might just be Baylor. Take a look at these stats from kenpom.com:
|No. 2 Baylor||No. 3 Kansas|
|116.7||Adjusted Offensive Efficiency||121.3|
|112.1||Adjusted Defensive Efficiency||116.4|
|18.0 seconds||Average Offensive Possession Length||15.8 seconds|
|18.5 seconds||Average Defensive Possession Length||17.3 seconds|
The Bears boast the 23rd slowest tempo in the nation, and force opponents into average possessions of 18.5 seconds — the seventh-longest in the country. If the Bears can force the Jayhawks to play at their speed, Kansas — which has the 44th-fastest offensive possession length nationwide — might not take too kindly to the change of pace.
And while Kansas' Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (how many points a team scores per 100 possessions) sits at No. 5 in the country, the Jayhawks' Adjusted Defensive Efficiency is the 10th-worst in the nation, so Kansas games see some of the most scoring in all of basketball.
Bottom line? This is a game of tempos. If Baylor can slow down the Jayhawks and limit touches for Mason and Jackson, the Bears will probably pick up their most impressive win of the year. If Kansas can force the Bears to keep up with their high-octane offense, the Jayhawks will likely earn their 28th consecutive 20-win season, extending the longest active streak in Division I basketball.