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Preview and Prediction: Kansas State at Baylor

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The Bears look to sweep the season series

NCAA Basketball: Baylor at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Baylor (20-2, 7-2) plays Kansas State (15-7, 4-5) at 2:00 on Saturday in the Ferrell Center. The game airs on ESPNews.

The Bears won in Manhattan 77-68 less than a month ago. Al Freeman and Manu Lecomte had excellent games. Freeman finished with 15 points and made two of his three 3-point attempts. Lecomte had 26 points, made four of his six 3-point looks, and turned the ball over just one time.

The first game went against much of what both teams do. Baylor hit 3-point shots, but failed to score in the post. The Bears also turned Kansas State over quite a bit, while Kansas State got to the line more than a Baylor opponent usually will.

Baylor should once again dominate on the offensive glass. The Bears nabbed 16 offensive rebounds in Manhattan. Baylor is 9th in offensive rebounding percentage on KenPom, and Kansas State ranks just 292nd in defensive rebounding. Expect to see more of this:

D.J. Johnson had an excellent game for Kansas State. Johnson finished 9 of 13 and worked well near the hoop. Johnson’s moves look similar to what Terry Maston does for Baylor:

To win this game, Kansas State will have to turn Baylor over a ton. Baylor’s offensive struggles often boil down to turning it over, which cost the Bears against West Virginia and on the last possession of the Kansas game. Baylor’s offensive turnover rate ranks 279th on KenPom, while the Wildcats defensive turnover rate ranks 7th.

Kansas State should probably take a chance and pressure the ball more in this contest. The Wildcats don’t have a ton to lose, and high ball pressure has been the best way to defend Baylor. Kansas State’s defensive problem seems to be that they struggle to rotate playing Johnson and Wade, which leads to opponents shooting a lot of quality shots at the rim and from the perimeter. Kansas State’s opponents are only taking 2-point jumpshots on 29.2% of their shots, while Baylor’s opponents are taking 2-point jump shots 14% more, according to hoop-math. You can see here that Freeman is able to morph his way to the rim:

The Wildcats will need a much bigger game from Wesley Iwundu. Iwundu averaged just .43 points per possession in plays that he ended, per Synergy. On the season, Iwundu averages .921 points per possession, which might make the Wildcats think they can win this one if Iwundu returns to form.

The problem for Kansas State is that Baylor’s big men played poorly in the first one. Motley fouled out and never got in rhythm. I don’t expect that to happen a second time. And as that above clip demonstrates, the Wildcats started focusing on Manu Lecomte on pick and rolls. That should free up Motley in this one. And even if Motley doesn’t get open in those opportunities, he should clean up on the glass. Motley ranks in the 89th percentile in offensive putbacks, per Synergy, and Kansas State gives teams a ton of those chances.

Prediction

Kansas State has been incredibly inconsistent. They beat West Virginia and looked better than Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse. But Kansas State also lost at home to TCU and has dropped five of their last seven games.

If Iwundu has an excellent game and the Wildcats force Baylor into more jump shots, they could certainly win. I don’t believe the Wildcats can force Baylor to shot 2-point jump shots. They haven’t done that much this season, and playing at a top five opponent is rarely the time to find yourself.

Even if Baylor’s guards play worse this time, I don’t think Kansas State can contain Motley two times in one season. And if they somehow do, it probably means the Wildcats left someone else in a favorable matchup. I’ll take Baylor 76-68.