Baylor (12-7, 2-5) takes on Kansas State (14-5, 4-3) at 8:00 on Monday. The game is at the Ferrell Center and airs on ESPNU.
As always, we’ll take a look at playing offense against the opponent, then turn to defense. Finally, we’ll close with a prediction.
Kansas State doesn’t have the best defense. They rank 89th nationally and 305th in defensive rebounding. Baylor ranks 25th in offensive rebounding, so second chance opportunities could be the difference for the Bears.
The Wildcats provide a ton of help on drives. The Bears are going to have to fire semi-open looks. After an abysmal start to Big 12 play from deep—just 28%, which would rank 346th nationally—the Wildcats are going to likely push helping on drives to the max. Expect Cartier Diarra to provide even more help on drives than he did against Kansas:
I’d look for Baylor to try and work a three man game on the strong side. The Wildcats like to have their other big man tag the roller, which could open some looks:
If the Bears decide to go small, they need to be aggressive grabbing rebounds. Baylor runs their high-horns set here, and Manu Lecomte misses a three. But Jake Lindsey is active and grabs the rebound. The Bears need that kind of effort against the Wildcats, given how close these games typically are:
The Wildcats can force turnovers, which is a big concern for the Bears. The Wildcats rank 23rd in turnover percentage. The Bears’ offense ranks 181st in avoiding turnovers. Kansas State did a phenomenal job defending Oklahoma, and National Player of the Year candidate, Trae Young. Kansas State forced 20 turnovers in that game and held the Sooners to just .96 points per possession, well off Oklahoma’s average of 1.17 points per possession. If things go catastrophically for the Bears, it will probably be a combination of too many turnovers and a rough shooting night.
Kansas State will also hard hedge pick-and-rolls. And if there’s one thing that’s pretty safe to know about Baylor basketball, it’s that any team that can hard hedge will hard hedge. The best way to beat the Wildcats attack is to spread the floor and then get the roll man to the hoop. The Bears’ high-horn set has some potential here, but in single high pick-and-roll looks, Lecomte, Lindsey and King McClure need to pull the Wildcats two men defending the pick-and-roll away from the hoop and then fire it to the corner (and actually make the shot):
The Bears will have to make 3-point shots. The Wildcats love to help the helper, and there’s a reason their opponents are attempting 41.6% of their shots from beyond the arc. Baylor will have opportunities from deep. The inability to make them has cost the Bears the TCU, West Virginia and Kansas games. It’s been a disaster:
Kansas State has a good offense, ranking 24th nationally. They’re good at just about everything on offense. The only two weaknesses they have are offensive rebounding (162nd) and free throw rate (170th).
The Wildcats are led by junior center Dean Wade. If the season ended today, he’d likely be on the All-Big 12 team. He had 22 points on 10 shots in Allen Fieldhouse. Other than the Texas Tech game, his offensive rating has been at least 110 in every Big 12 game, which is an exceptional run. Wade drilled 6-of-8 threes against Iowa State and 4-of-9 against TCU. He may not shoot that well every game, but against a dude who’s hit 47% of his 49 attempts, and made 40% of his 97 looks last year, the Bears can’t play like Cyclones:
Barry Brown and Diarra make up a skilled back-court. Brown is second in minutes during Big 12 play. He moves the ball well and can hit shots, but he’s never shot above 34% from deep.
TCU tried to play a lot of zone against Kansas State. That didn’t go well early. The Wildcats raced out to an 11-2 lead. Kansas State uses pump fakes and fake passes effectively. If the Bears try and play much zone, they need to be cognizant and not overly aggressive in reacting to the first move.
Baylor’s pick-and-roll defense needs to be careful against the pick-and-pop. The Horned Frogs iced pick-and-rolls along the sideline, which is Baylor’s preferred defensive look. The Bears need to be mindful that this game is a lot different than the Kansas game because Wade will be ready at the perimeter:
After Baylor went small for most of the Kansas game, I expect the Bears to return to playing two big men for most of this game. Kansas State has Xavier Sneed, a 6-foot-5 stretch four, who could create some match-up problems on defense against the Bear’s traditional lineup, so maybe they’ll return to playing small for a while. But I’d expect the Bears to play man-to-man with two big men for most of the night.
Can Baylor make 30% of their 3-point shots? If they can, they should win. The Bears have the size to deal with Kansas State and should collect quite a few second chance points. Add in a friendlier whistle in Waco, and the Wildcats aggressive defense might lead to Baylor getting to the free throw line.
Kansas State’s a good team that’s been on a nice run. They’re a made basket at Allen Fieldhouse away from being in first place in the conference. Wade is excellent and their guards are big and pretty quick. Kansas State could certainly win.
I think the Bears eclipse the 30% mark from deep and have a nice game on the offensive glass, which outweighs a few sloppy turnovers. I’ll take Baylor 72-65.
Season Prediction Record: 17-2 (Had Baylor beating TCU and Iowa State)
Against the Spread: 8-3 (Had Baylor covering against Xavier and Iowa State; Had West Virginia covering, and pushed on the Kansas game)