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Big 12 Quarterfinal: Baylor-Kansas State Preview and Prediction

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

Baylor (25-6, 12-6) takes on Kansas State (19-12, 8-10) at 8:00 on Thursday in the Big 12 Tournament. With a loss, the Wildcats are likely heading to the NIT and looking for a new coach. As a result, this will be a huge battle for the Bears.

The teams split the regular season series. Each team won on the other’s court. Baylor beat Kansas State in Manhattan 77-68. The Bears shot 9-of-20 from 3-point range in that one. When Baylor shoots that well, they’re almost unbeatable. But in Waco, the Bear’s offense disappeared in a 56-54 loss. Baylor averaged just .87 points per possession in that game. Over the course of a full season, offense that bad would rank 2nd to last in the country.

Kansas State raced out to a strong start in Waco, but the Bear’s defense really limited the Wildcats late. On one of Baylor’s worst offensive days of the season, they made a few bad mental mistakes, including not coming out on Dean Wade in transition. Baylor nearly finished the comeback. They just put themselves too far behind to do it without playing nearly perfect basketball.

Baylor didn’t offensive rebound well in Waco. The Bears gathered 31% of their misses. That was 11% worse than Baylor averaged in Big 12 play. And Kansas State ranks 287th in the country and 9th in the Big 12 in defensive rebounding percentage. I’d expect Baylor to have some opportunities like this in the third game between the two teams:

Kansas State has not had a great offensive performer against Baylor. Dean Wade can be a unique problem. He’s a big guy who can play inside and out. He played well in the first half in Waco, but he ended with just 12 points and 6 rebounds. Kamau Stokes and Wesley Iwundu are good perimeter threats. The Wildcats will need one of those guys to get going from deep.

Prediction:

This game has potential “throw the records out.” The conventional wisdom is that Bruce Weber will get fired if the Wildcats lose and fail to make the tournament. They might still get into the tournament with a loss, but Kansas State played a horrendous non-conference schedule. I cannot fathom why they did that, given they are a good team. With a better non-conference schedule, the Wildcat’s 8-10 conference record in the #1 KenPom league would put them comfortably in the dance. But when your best non-conference win is Colorado State, you don’t allow yourself much comfort.

Baylor showed last week they can survive against good teams without Manu Lecomte. The Bears will be better with him back on the court. In the interim, they’ll rely on Jake Lindsey and Chuck Mitchell. The Wildcats might take a risk and pressure the ball more. The downside of such a strategy is that a bad defensive rebounding team would open up a ton of offensive rebounding opportunities.

I can’t imagine Baylor has an offensive day as bad as they did in Waco. The Wildcats are good and could get hot from the perimeter. I don’t think they will. The Bear’s offensive rebounding and passable shooting from deep will be enough. And there’s always the potential someone has a day like this:

An NIT bound Baylor squad upset a top five Kansas team on the last day of the 2013 season to give Bruce Weber a Big 12 Championship. Four years later, Baylor will send Kansas State to the NIT and end Bruce Weber’s run at Kansas State. I’ll take Baylor 70-66.