|No. 21/19 Baylor (17-6, 6-4) at Kansas State (14-9, 3-7)|
Feb. 10, 2016 | 7:15 p.m. CT
Manhattan, Kan. | Bramlage Coliseum (12,528)
TV: ESPNEWS and WatchESPN
Radio: ESPN Central Texas
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When Baylor overcame the Wildcats in Waco back on January 20th, it stretched their win streak out to five games and gave them a 5-1 conference record. Since, Baylor is 1-3 in conference (2-3 overall thanks to that oddly timed but welcome Big XII-SEC Challenge). The good news is that two of those losses came to high caliber opponents in West Virginia and Oklahoma, the third loss was to a rising Texas team, and the win came on the road when Oklahoma State had a healthy Jawun Evans.
For its part, Kansas State has gone 2-4 in the Big XII since losing in Waco. Both of its wins came at home, but one was an impressive defeat of then No. 1 Oklahoma, who torched Baylor at home. Their losses are equally defensible, coming on the road to West Virginia and Kansas.
Bigger than any one piece of their record, however, is the loss of starting point guard Kamau Stokes, who will be having knee surgery after suffering from what appeared to be a non-contact injury. Stokes was the lead guard for Bruce Weber and was K-State's best three point shooter. Barry Brown is the only other Wildcat who has shot better than .300 from deep, and despite missing two games Stokes has attempted nearly 20 more three-pointers than the next highest. That's a devastating piece to lose.
Stil, K-State's offense is not what has helped them succeed this season. The Wildcats come into the game with the 15th best defense by adj. efficiency, per KenPom. They are skilled at forcing turnovers and contesting shots. While they allow a fairly high number of threes attempted per game, especially since conference play began, they force a lot of misses by contesting the shot. They are an effort based team, and in college basketball effort is sometimes all you need to win a game against a more talented opponent.
Al Freeman and Johnathan Motley will be coming into this game with something to prove. Both have seen their production dip for the past couple of games. Freeman's shooting in particular will need to be resurrected for Baylor to regain the mojo it hand in the first stretch of conference play. Baylor's offense works best when it can feed the ball into the post and score from the block, forcing the enemy defense to hedge towards the paint and opening creases for outside shooters. If Motley can be that threat and suck in defenders, that will give space for Freeman, Lester Medford, and King McClure as they scoot around the floor.
If Baylor loses tonight, it will be the program's first three game losing streak since it lost five in a row in that awful January of 2014. Let's hope Taurean Prince and Rico Gathers have the fortitude and leadership to keep that from happening.