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Baylor-Kansas State: Preview and Prediction

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NCAA Basketball: Texas Christian at Baylor Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1 Baylor (19-1, 8-0) takes on Kansas State (9-12, 2-6) at 8:00 in Manhattan. The game airs on ESPN2.

Baylor is a 77% favorite on KenPom. He likes Baylor by eight. Vegas has Baylor by seven.

With a long profile coming out on Freddie Gillespie tomorrow, we’ll do the three keys version of the preview.

Three Keys:

1) Limit 3-point attempts: Kansas State isn’t great from beyond the arc (210th in 3-point shooting). But Baylor is a good deal better than the Wildcats. West Virginia gave up 18 threes to Kansas State in Manhattan, and they hit nine. The Wildcats probably need to get lucky from deep to win, and Baylor should limit those opportunities. Makol Mawien, their senior big man, has had a very disappointing season; better to help off him and limit perimeter shots than let Cartier Diarra or Xavier Sneed get hot.

2) Avoid lazy plays- While that feels like an obvious saying, the Wildcats are 11th in defensive turnover percentage. Bruce Weber likes to have his guys pressure and deny passing lanes. The Bears need to lock-in all game. That was a problem against TCU, which let the Horned Frogs come back, before Baylor’s talent overwhelmed them. The Bears probably won’t lose this game absent a few of these things compounding, but if Baylor can avoid stupid and lazy passes, Kansas State won’t overwhelm Baylor’s guards.

3) Expect a KSU run- Despite a terrible record, Kansas State ranks a decent No. 85 on KenPom. They rank there because they’ve played quite a few close games. Alabama was up nearly 20 in the second half, and Kansas State came back and took the lead before losing late. The Bears don’t want to be up by four all game. They need to build the lead and put them away.

Prediction:

Maybe Kansas State gets hot from the field—it happened against West Virginia—but I don’t think they’ll be accurate enough to overwhelm Baylor. With so many guards, Baylor is a big challenge for Kansas State, and Freddie Gillespie and Mark Vital can hang with the Wildcats’ guards on defense.

I expect Baylor to have their best game against the Wildcats in a few years. I’ll take Baylor 68-56.