The Baylor Bears travel to face the Kansas Jayhawks in a Big 12 matchup on Saturday night. The Big 12 is about as balanced and competitive as any college basketball conference in 2014-15. The Bears and Jayhawks opened in-conference play against one another on January 7 in a tight game eventually won 56-55 by Kansas.
The Jayhawks sit atop the Big 12 with a two-game advantage and have the appearance of being a team in relatively comfortable position. People who have watched Bill Self’s team this season will know that reaching a 20-4 (9-2) record has not come easily for Kansas. Few teams have demonstrated an ability to play at such a high level in one half of a basketball game, and then at such a low level in the next. They were fortunate to leave Baylor with a win earlier this season and there have been more than a few games where that could be said.
Still, suggesting that a team finds ways to win basketball games isn’t necessarily a criticism. Self is coaching a relatively young lineup with two freshmen and two sophomore starters. There isn’t a senior who has a regular role in Kansas’ rotation. The team’s most experienced player, Perry Ellis, leads the team in scoring and also provides a critical rebounding presence. Meanwhile, a strong backcourt led by Frank Mason III and Wayne Selden Jr. bodes well for this team as it heads down the stretch. Selden Jr. has played particularly well in recent games averaging 16.3 points per game in his last four contests.
Like most of the Big 12, the Bears have had an up and down season in terms of performances and results. After starting conference play 3-4, Baylor appeared to have worked with a 23-point victory over Texas and 18-point win over West Virginia sandwiching another ‘W’ over TCU. That three-game streak was snapped on Monday with a surprise home loss against Oklahoma State. They enter tonight’s game against Kansas in sixth place in the ultra-competitive Big 12.
This team is dangerous because it has experience and talent to spare amongst its core players. It starts with a big and skilled front court featuring Taureen Prince, Rico Gathers and Royce O’Neale. Gathers has been the hot hand of late. The conference’s rebounding leader is averaging 15.7 points and 16.3 rebounds per game in Baylor’s last three.
Betting Preview: Baylor (+7.5) at Kansas
Kansas hasn’t lost a game at home and this is a team that finds a way to win. A lot of basketball games are decided by more than seven points regardless of who the two opponents are. However, that’s a good number of points to take a gambit on a Bears team that needs a big win, should control the inside matchup and has been playing much better basketball over the past couple of weeks compared with their early season Big 12 form.
The Pick: Baylor (+7.5) (www.betonline.ag)
Writer’s Record Against The Spread: 25-18