Last season, Kansas nearly went undefeated in Big 12 play, with a 17-1 record in the conference. The Jayhawks' only loss came against Baylor, which is now embarking on its own attempt at an undefeated conference record. The Bears are 9-0 after dispatching No. 6 Texas on the road, leaving just six scheduled games remaining in the regular season.
The path ahead will be tough, with upcoming games including back-to-back showdowns against West Virginia and a regular season finale at Kansas, which could potentially spoil Baylor's undefeated conference record, just as the Bears did to the Jayhawks last season.
Here's how, and why, Baylor could carry an undefeated record into Selection Sunday.
Baylor has already beaten all of its remaining opponents (except for West Virginia)
Of Baylor's six remaining regular season games, the Bears will face five different opponents — and they've already beaten four of them. West Virginia is the only exception. Baylor has already won big against these four: Texas Tech (8 points), Kansas (8 points), Iowa State (11 points) and Oklahoma State (15 points).
A bunch of those earlier wins came on the road, meaning Baylor will host Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Iowa State the second time around.
Even Baylor's trip to Allen Fieldhouse to face Kansas on Feb. 27 is less daunting, given that Baylor won there last year (by 12 points, too!), Kansas won't have a full arena like it would in normal seasons, and Kansas is tied for fourth in the conference, through Feb. 4.
Baylor is the best team in the country (depending on who you ask)
So far this season, Gonzaga has been a wire-to-wire No. 1 team in the AP poll. In fact, Baylor received only three first-place votes in the latest AP poll, despite its 17-0 record and impressive string of wins.
But according to the advanced analytics site kenpom.com, Baylor is the No. 2 team in the country, through Feb. 17. With the No. 3 offense in the country and the No. 4 offense, on an efficiency basis, Baylor has the highest adjusted efficiency margin in the country at +34.97, which means that on average, Baylor would be expected to outscore an average team on a neutral floor by 34.97 points over 100 possessions. For context, the average men's basketball game is roughly 70 possessions.
Gonzaga checks in at No. 1 with an adjusted efficiency margin of +37.57, just ahead of Baylor.
The Bears are truly elite on both ends of the floor and currently, they stack up as strong as almost any team in the sport over the last two decades. For context, Kentucky's 2015 team, which entered the Final Four undefeated, finished with an adjusted efficiency margin of +36.91.
MAKING THE CASE: Why Gonzaga would be undefeated going into the NCAA tournament
Baylor does some things better than almost anyone else
The Bears are the best 3-point shooting team in the country. Full stop.
They've made 43.9 percent of their threes this season and they have five players who have made at least 43 percent of their threes while also making more than 15 3-pointers. Another player, MaCio Teague, is shooting 36 percent, so it doesn't really matter who's on the court or who has the ball, because Baylor is almost guaranteed to have at least two or three dead-eye 3-point shooters on the floor at all times.
Davion Mitchell, who has had a really strong last month, is shooting 49.4 percent from deep on 79 attempts. The team's leading scorer, Jared Butler, has made 44.6 percent of his 101 attempts. Adam Flagler adds a 44.6-percent 3-point shooter off the bench.
While there aren't typically a lot of missed shots for Baylor to rebound, compared to its peers, the Bears do a great job of grabbing them. They have a 37.9-percent offensive rebounding rate, which ranks fifth in the country. That means, on average, they grab almost four out of every 10 shots they missed, which gives an elite shooting team even more chances to score.
Defensively, Baylor has some great individual defenders, who, collectively, can switch almost every screen and cause problems for opposing offenses. Butler and Mitchell cause havoc for opposing defenses, while Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and Mark Vital protect the interior.
Baylor knows what it does well — and it does those things at an elite level.