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Baylor-Kansas State: Three Keys, Why They Win and How to Watch

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Baylor looks to extend their winning streak against KSU

NCAA Basketball: Stephen Austin at Baylor Tim Flores-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 Baylor (4-0, 0-0) takes on Kansas State (3-4, 1-0) at 3:00 today in Manhattan. The game airs on ESPN+.

I’ll be present for this game, so I’m excited to see what the Bears look like in person. It will also be weird to watch a basketball game with a mask, but I’ll 100% take that.

We should find out before tip if the Bears are missing anyone for this game. After COVID-19, the Bears could be down a player or two. Jared Butler met with the media on Thursday, so he should play.

Three Keys:

1) Play aggressively on offense- The Bears are a bit better than even the improved Wildcats. KSU lost by 13 points to Fort Hays State, a mediocre D-II team. Since then, they’ve looked much better, especially with a victory over Iowa State—and the Cyclones should have knocked off West Virginia last night.

But the Bears are better than the Wildcats. That doesn’t guarantee a victory. With the rust, the Bears need to just take what’s available and get to the hoop.

2) Limit KSU from deep- The 3-point shot is the great equalizer. A worse team can have a good shooting day and knock off a better opponent. The Wildcats are 68th in the country in percent of shots from deep, so they’re willing to fire. Baylor should hard close and risk the Wildcats getting to the hoop.

3) Avoid foul trouble- If the Bears are down a rotation piece, they’ll need their remaining seven or eight guys (I’m counting LJ Cryer as a rotation piece) to stay in the game. The Bears should not take cheap fouls in transition or contest late breakaway opportunities for Kansas State. Keeping Mark Vital and some other essential rotation pieces in the game matters.

Prediction:

I always caution people not to bet my picks. I don’t bet them, and when I do the deep previews—we’ll return to those for the next Big 12 game—I spend way more time on the key factors in the game than who comes out on top in a small differential to control the Vegas line.

Baylor is down to a 16.5 point favorite on most books. The line started at Baylor -21. I think the advanced metrics have KSU a little overrated based on body of work because they’re not designed to handle the Fort Hays State loss, but the Wildcats have also monumentally improved since then, so the advanced metrics seem about right. Add in Baylor possibly missing a rotation player, and it’s easy to say that the Wildcats cover against a Baylor squad that returned to practice on Thursday.

I think Baylor can pressure Kansas State’s guards a little too well, and even if they’re rusty, one of Baylor’s guards will shoot well from three. I’ll take Baylor 78-56.