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PREVIEW: Baylor Basketball at Kansas

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Baylor opens its 18 game Big 12 conference slate against the reigning power in the conference

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
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No. 23/21 Baylor (10-2) at No. 2/3 Kansas (11-1)
Jan. 2, 2016 | 3:00 p.m. CT
Lawrence, Kan. | Allen Fieldhouse (16,300)

TV: CBS

Radio: ESPN Central Texas

The calendar has flipped over to 2016 which means it is officially basketball season in the Big 12 with all 10 conference teams opening league play today in the nation's toughest basketball conference. Baylor gets the joy and pleasure of getting its most daunting game out of the way first as the Bears travel to Allen Fieldhouse this afternoon to take on #2 Kansas. The Jayhawks have been absolutely dominant at home under head coach Bill Self, losing just 9 home games since taking the reins in Lawrence back in 2003. KU has won 24 straight at the Phog and its last Big 12 home loss was nearly 3 years ago.

Needless to say, this is going to be a tough challenge for Scott Drew and the Bears, who are 0-13 all-time at Allen Fieldhouse. But the Bears played extremely well in Lawrence last season, jumping out to a quick lead and had the game tied with under 3 minutes to play before Kansas pulled away late. Baylor will need a similar effort today in order to stay in this game and not get blown out in front of a national TV audience on CBS.

Baylor has played two road games this season against Oregon and Texas A&M and its safe to say that neither game inspired a whole lot of confidence. The Bears fell behind by significant margins early in each game, a recipe for disaster now that we're into the Big 12 portion of the schedule. The game at A&M two weeks ago was especially disheartening as the Aggies dominated the Bears from the jump and never let Baylor get into the game at all.

Keys to the Game

1) Taurean Prince has to be on his A game. We've seen it at times this season but TP needs to be more consistent offensively for this team to reach its full potential. Baylor does not have a multitude of players that can create their own shot so Prince becomes that much more of a key for Baylor's offense. This team goes as TP goes.

2) Baylor is not going to have any physical advantage up front against KU, so the Bears are going to have to be able to hit some outside shots. Al Freeman has shown signs of being a big 3 point weapon for the Bears, but he has been quiet in games against Vanderbilt and Texas A&M. Lester Medford has had big games from the outside in the past, but he can at times be unwilling to take the big shot.

3) Keep Frank Mason out of the paint. The Jayhawk offense clicks on all cylinders when their dynamic point guard is able to penetrate the defense and either create for himself or dish off to other talented teammates like Wayne Selden and 27th year senior Perry Ellis. Whether Baylor is playing zone or man-to-man, and I'm sure Scott Drew will mix up his defensive looks in this game, the Bears will have no chance if they allow KU to slice them up by getting into the lane constantly.

4) Win the 50-50 balls. Baylor is going to need to have some breaks go their way to be able to give themselves a chance in this game but they'll need to create the opportunities. Be active on the glass, be the first player to the floor for a loose ball, etc. These kind of plays can frustrate any opponent.

5) Stay composed. It's been well documented that the officiating tends to skew towards the home team in games played at Allen Fieldhouse. There will be some calls that go against the Bears. How Baylor responds emotionally, especially early on, could have an impact on how long the Bears can hang around with one of the most well-balanced teams in the country.

Projected Starters

Baylor

  • G - Lester Medford (SR | 11 | Tucson, AZ)
  • G - Ish Wainright (JR | 24 | Kansas City, MO)
  • G - Al Freeman (SO | 25 | Charlotte, NC)
  • F - Rico Gathers (SR | 2 | LaPlace, LA)
  • F - Taurean Prince (SR | 21 | San Antonio, TX)

Kansas

  • G - Frank Mason III (JR | 0 | Petersburg, VA)
  • G - Wayne Selden Jr. (JR | 1 | Roxbury, MA)
  • G - Devonte' Graham (SO | 4 | Raleigh, NC)
  • F - Perry Ellis (OLD | 34 | Wichita, KS)
  • F - Hunter Mickelson (SR | 42 | Jonesboro, AR)