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How it Happened: Baylor’s Path to Crushing Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse

Several moments keyed Baylor’s massive win

NCAA Basketball: Baylor at Kansas Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Baylor entered Saturday’s game in Allen Fieldhouse as a seven point underdog. They had never won in that building, and Kansas pulled within five in the second half. But the Bears went on another run and rolled to an easy victory.

The Bears dealt Bill Self his largest margin of defeat in Allen Fieldhouse in a variety of ways. The starting five all played more than 30 minutes, and each member of that lineup fueled the victory.

1) Jared Butler is the Big 12’s best player:

We’ll discuss scheme and Baylor’s complete team in a second, but a lot of basketball comes down to needing a guy to get a bucket. And nobody is better in the Big 12 at getting a bucket than Butler.

Butler has now scored 53 points in two games at Allen Fieldhouse. His 22 points were a mix of his work at the rim and ability to take anyone off the dribble. Butler’s most impressive play was getting Marcus Garrett to go under his screen. Garrett is easily the Big 12’s best non-Baylor defender (I’d take Davion Mitchell or Mark Vital over him). But Butler—due to his dribble being so insane, and his shot being so quick—ended up getting Garrett to go under a screen against him:

2) Davion Mitchell’s defense:

Mitchell made it nearly impossible for Devon Dotson or Kansas to force help. Kansas’ offense relies on “getting down hill” where players are forced to help, and then either Udoka Azuibuke gets a favorable matchup in the paint, Dotson can make a layup or a shooter is open.

Mitchell stopped on ball actions. With apologies to A.J. Walton, he’s the best defensive guard of the Scott Drew era. And his timing on doubles ruined Kansas and held Azubuike to six points:

3) Freddie Gillespie’s offensive work:

Gillespie warrants a treatise for his job in the post and his ability to switch onto smaller players. That will be written in time.

Gillespie’s offensive game has opened things for Baylor. In the second half, Kansas closed within five. Drew called for an alley-oop to him. He’s also opened Baylor’s offense by being a mid-range option, and for his work in the dunker spot (the area he’s standing in the GIF below). Analytics are amazing and play a big role in the Baylor program. But the lesson of analytics isn’t that we should eschew 2-point jumpers. The lesson is to take the most efficient shot, which usually is a three or a layup. Gillespie has been so accurate from different spots that it’s opened up Baylor’s offense and created reliable and efficient buckets:

4) Macio Teague’s brilliance:

Teague is Baylor’s second best offensive weapon, but much like discussing Gillespie’s defense, there are other parts of his game that make Baylor go.

The Bears like to run a set I refer to as the “awesome play.” It’s a rip action play, and they run it at least once a game. Early in the season, Teague was setting such good screens that he was getting fouled. He did that against Villanova and against Kansas, his screen allowed Gillespie to throw down the dunk:

5) Mark Vital’s unselfishness and passing:

Vital’s defense will get a write-up in a defense article later in the week, so let’s focus on his offense here.

Vital’s lack of shooting means teams play off of him. He’s become an adept passer. Rather than just run into the lane for a tough shot or fire threes, he found guys. In the first half, he hit a wide open Teague for three. Kansas led by five, and Baylor’s win percentage was down to 12.5% on KenPom. That moment was massive.

Baylor also ran a backdoor cut to Butler. Vital made a supreme bounce pass:

6) The coaching staff had the right philosophy:

Baylor ran a complex defense where they strongly ignored the weak-side (non-ball side) and worked to rotate and close out quickly. That style of defense can easily break down, and Baylor’s didn’t.

The Bears also ran a modified version of the awesome play twice at the end of the game. Both led to buckets:

It was real and spectacular:

Baylor was just better. The Bears are now No. 3 on KenPom, and they have another guard, Devonte Bandoo, who can go off any game. They also have Matt Mayer, who has improved massively and is playing within himself. Flo Thamba is moving well defensively. And Tristan Clark, a preseason All-Big 12 selection, as a potential lottery ticket if he can get fully healthy by the end of the year.

Baylor showed on Saturday that they’re the best team in the Big 12, and if they keep playing like this, they’ll win more than the Big 12.