Baylor (18-12, 8-9) takes on Kansas State (20-10, 9-8) at 1:00 on Saturday in Manhattan. The game airs on ESPN.
Baylor lost the game in Waco 90-83. With both teams still on the bubble, this is a huge game. Kamau Stokes did not play in that game. He’s returned from injury, but he’s struggled. He’s shot just 20% from three in one of his eight games since returning from injury.
As always, we’ll preview offense against the opponent, then turn to defense. Finally, we’ll close with a prediction.
Baylor scored 1.14 adjusted points per possession (PPP) in Waco. Baylor should be thrilled if they can score that many PPP in round two. The Wildcats have the nation’s No. 44 adjusted defense and rank 5th in the Big 12. They’ve given up an average of 1.07 PPP in Big 12 play.
Kansas State’s pick-and-roll defense creates a few opportunities for the Bears. The Wildcats often tag the roller. They’ll have a player outside of the play leave his man and bump the screener rolling to the hoop. That leaves plenty of 3-point chances. The Wildcat’s opponents attempt a 3-pointer on 40% of their possession, which ranks 255th nationally. The Bears will get quite a few open threes out of the pick-and-roll:
The Wildcats also can forget about guys out of basic sets. Baylor’s not going to want to attempt 25 3-point shots. The Bears are an excellent team near the hoop. They’ve been very bad hitting from beyond the arc. But the Wildcats have some size and can occasionally limit Baylor’s big men. If the Bears can’t get it going inside, they’ll have some shots outside:
Baylor did a fantastic job grabbing offensive rebounds in Waco. Baylor rebounded 44% of their misses. That’s not surprising, given Kansas State ranks 322nd nationally in defensive rebounding. The Wildcat’s defense sends a ton of help. That makes Kansas State a pretty good first shot defense. But that often makes Kansas State a team that has to deal with the second shot or put-backs:
Baylor’s high horns set worked quite well in the first matchup. The Bears had two big men up high and then worked them toward the hoop. That set up driving lanes for King McClure and Manu Lecomte. It also gave Jake Lindsey nice passing opportunities; he finished the game with seven assists. The Bears ran that set on three straight possessions in the second half. The Wildcats are going to have to defend it better in Manhattan.
The one offensive concern for Baylor against Kansas State is turning it over. Xavier Sneed is a long and capable defender. And Barry Brown and Stokes are big guards. Baylor’s guards have struggled with size and passing lanes. Sneed and Brown will gamble they can pick up steals. Baylor should be patient against Kansas State. With how well Baylor can crash the glass, getting a mediocre shot up is astronomically better than risking too many turnovers.
Kansas State’s offense went insane in Waco. The Wildcats scored 1.23 adjusted PPP against Baylor’s defense, which ranks 10th nationally.
The Wildcats shot very well from the perimeter. Despite ranking 154th nationally in 3-point percentage, the Wildcats drained 8-of-17 triples. Brown—who has hit just 33% of his threes on the season—made 4-of-8 threes in the Ferrell Center. Baylor will gamble that he won’t hit that many in the Octagon of Doom.
Baylor’s zone didn’t do well in the first game. Kansas State did a nice job working the ball to the middle of the zone. When they did, they either kicked it to a 3-point shooter or had Dean Wade make shots. Wade finished with 24 points on 10 shots. He’s certainly one of the 10 best players in the league, and he might make the All-Big 12 team. The Bears will want Wade to not take many shots:
The Bears need to continue to shift their zone to focus on Wade. If Cartier Diarra, Brown, Stokes and Sneed are making threes, variance has brought pain to the Bears. But it’s worth playing the math. Those guys haven’t been shooting well. If Sneed makes this, congratulate Kansas State on locking up a tournament bid:
I’d expect Baylor to play predominantly zone. The Bears can’t let Kansas State’s guards get dribble penetration or let Wade work in space. Surrender threes, avoid fouling and rebound. That formula will normally work against Kansas State.
This game should come down to how well Kansas State can shoot from the perimeter. If Stokes has a big game, or if one of Kansas State’s other shooters gets hot, Baylor’s going to have a tough day.
In 2014, Baylor started 2-7 in Big 12 play and played the last game of the season in Manhattan to try and get their ninth Big 12 win. The Bears managed to do it. I think they do it again. I expect Maston to have a big game and McClure or Nuni Omot to hit a couple big threes. The Wildcats could win. But I’ll take Baylor 72-68.
Season Prediction Record: 24-6
Record Against the Spread: 13-9