After a definitive win on the road against West Virginia, Baylor struggled to muster energy against Oklahoma State in Waco. Now headed north to face Kansas, Baylor will have to climb a mountain in order to avoid their first back-to-back losses since the start of conference play. To see how our friends over at Rock Chalk Talk felt about Kansas and Baylor's prospects at delivering the Jayhawks 10th home loss in the Bill Self era (Yes, Bill Self has more conference titles than home losses), we sent some questions to Andy Mitts (aka misterbrain), who also sent some questions my way.
PC: Baylor’s not the only team to have a recent run-in with Oklahoma State. Kansas took a double-digit lead into the half and over the next 20 minutes saw it dissipate into a five point loss. Even so, that was only KU’s 2nd conference loss this season. Do you feel pretty confident that the Jayhawks will close out the season strong for their 11th consecutive conference title, or did that loss at Oklahoma State expose some areas that might trouble the team down the stretch?
AM: I've not really decided what to take from that game. For some reason, we have had trouble down in Stillwater the last 5 years or so, meaning that I'm not really surprised that we had trouble in that game. And it's not like every year they have been all that good. But there is still some concern that we have come out lazy at times, and for some reason we can't play two good halves in the same game.
That being said, like most of the Big 12, Kansas is a much better team at home than on the road, and Oklahoma State has shown they are better than we thought they were, so I'm not overly concerned.
PC: Bill Self is finally putting Cliff Alexander in the starting lineup. What caused him to pull the trigger?
AM: That's a really good question, and I don't really know the answer here either. We have been clamoring for Alexander to get more playing time and/or the starting the position pretty much all year long, but I didn't see anything in the last few games from Jamari Traylor or Alexander that forced Self to make the swap. The only thing I can really think of is that we looked so bad in the second half of that Oklahoma State game that Self decided it was time to try something different.
PC: Last time these teams played, Rico Gathers was held to 9 points and 14 rebounds on 3-10 shooting. Do you think the Kansas front line can limit his offensive impact in a similar way this time around, or will they be content to let Gathers get his while limiting the other scoring options Baylor has?
AM: It's going to depend on whether the bank transfers went through. Limiting Gathers is going to require keeping Traylor, Alexander and Landen Lucas out of foul trouble. There is a tendency for these guys to rack up two quick fouls in the first half, and that has allowed too many teams to stay close or build leads in the first half.
I don't think there will be a huge focus to stop Gathers at all costs. Kansas has enough shooters and plays good enough defense on the perimeter that they will likely be ok with a big game from Gathers if it means they shut everything else down. And if KU can get hot from long range, then it may not matter too much what Gathers tries to do.
PC: Wayne Selden has been a man on fire the last four games, shooting 64% from three and averaging 16.25 points. What’s gotten into him recently, and how hopeful are you that he’s left his early season struggles behind?
AM: It's really come down to shot selection. During his recent struggles, there has been too many instances where Selden would pass up the open three, only to take 2 steps inside the arc and take a contested 2. Much like last season, he has finally started to settle into his role and found his footing in this offense. While both he and Perry Ellis are talented, they aren't really take charge type players, and so we've seen struggles from both of them as they try to adjust to the new dynamics each season.
That being said, Selden is on a tear for sure. And now that he has learned to play to his own strengths, he fits right in with the other shooters we have on the team.
PC: What’s your prediction? Do you see any way for Baylor to keep this game close, or will KU continue to bomb away from deep and never let the Bears into the game?
AM: I think Baylor will likely keep it close, just because Kansas has shown that no matter how big a lead they have, they can't seem to put any team away too early. But ultimately, the shooting combo of Selden, Brannen Greene and Frank Mason will allow Kansas to pull away in a hurry if Baylor starts slipping late in the game. Ellis and Alexander should be able to help keep Baylor from bullying the Jayhawks down low, and ultimately Kansas wins it. I'll go Kansas 78, Baylor 71.
Thanks again to Andy for chatting with us.