Let me start by saying this will likely be my last eye test of the regular season. It has been a dope first season to write for ODB this year and I’m excited to continue into the postseason. Thank you for reading my inaccurate takes, emotional rants, and downright bad jokes. You make the world go round. Enough sappy words, that’s not what you’re here for.
This also accidentally turned into one of my longest articles, just a warning.
I really tried to reach for another lyric to title this deal and the best I could come up with was “I’m Luke JayHawkin’ On These Haters (splish)”, shoutout my Miguel fans. But we will settle for a movie classic and state the obvious that the Jayhawks are a much easier team to play away from Kansas. I didn’t say easy, just easier.
Say what you want about how annoying Fran Fraschilla is, I agree, but he did say that officiating in Phog Allen can swing the outcome of a game 10 points in Kansas’ favor. Do I think that is an all the time thing, no, but I do think it holds some water. Also it means always smack the Kansas spread at home.
Would 10 points have made a difference in Baylor’s first matchup with Kansas, no certainly not. There were a number of factors that contributed to the Jayhawks spanking the Bears that we will get into later, most of which were self-inflicted wounds by Baylor. But, I do think teams can go into Kansas and lose the game before tip.
In what has continued to be an up and down year due to injuries, Baylor has remained a top 10 team in the country. Kansas has continued to do what they always do, and sit atop the Big 12. This sets up yet another top 10 KU / BU matchup in Waco, I have a feeling we got a good one coming.
Setting the Scene
The Who: #5 Kansas MBB x #10 Baylor MBB
The What: College Gameday Top 10 Matchup
The Where: The Palace on U-Parks
The When: Saturday 2/26 7:00 PM CT on ESPN
The Why: This matchup will show us if Baylor’s depleted roster is capable of a tourney run
How We Got Here
I sort of discussed a little bit of how we got here in the intro, but I think the recent stretch of games from both programs is worth unpacking. Since the curb stomping that occurred in Lawrence, both teams have gone 4-1 over the last 5 games.
Kansas has beaten Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and Kansas State. The Jayhawks lost in Austin to the Longhorns, in a game that Kansas should’ve won. Texas did their darndest to give that thing away.
Baylor has taken down Kansas State, Texas, TCU, and Oklahoma State all while continuing to be riddled with injuries. The Bears lost a tough game in Lubbock to the Red Raiders in the first game without EJ.
I rewatched the tape from Baylor’s first matchup with Kansas to hopefully find some ‘what not to dos’; and also watched tape from the Kansas loss to UT and the win against Kansas State. I was particularly interested in the Kansas State game because the Wildcats scored 83 points. I assume if the Bears post 80 plus points, we win.
We have already done one deep dive on the Jayhawks, and much of their tendencies are still the same. I assume every Kansas and Baylor fan read that so this will all be a refresher for all parties.
Kansas Eye Test
After rewatching our first game with Kansas it confirmed that the tape from that game should be burned, never to be seen again. Let me throw some numbers at you from the first matchup, before we revisit the Jayhawk offensive and defensive eye test.
71, the number of shots Baylor took. 21, the number of shots Baylor made. 29.6, Baylor’s field goal percentage. 25.9, Baylor’s three point field goal percentage. 9, Kansas’ rebounding differential. 34, Kansas’ largest lead in the game. As we all know I am not the numbers guy, but those aren’t great. Now what that tells me right away is that Baylor took a ton of low quality shots and Kansas’ production ballooned as a result.
I say all of this because I think Baylor looked and played flustered in that game in Lawrence. Kansas was in control from buzzer to buzzer and the environment had everything to do with it. I expect a much more composed Baylor squad this time around.
Now that that’s off my chest, let’s dive into what to expect from the Jayhawks. Side note, did you know a Jayhawk isn’t even a real bird? Apparently it is a mythical bird, google it.
Kansas is tied for 17th in the country in scoring at 80 PPG, and 32nd in assists at 15.9 APG. As we experienced and has held true through the entire season, the Jayhawk offense starts and stops with Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun. That’s not to say the rest of their roster can’t hurt you, but Agbaji and Braun make up 44% of the Kansas offensive production.
The Jayhawk offense continues to impress and impose their dominance. Kansas is fresh off of a 102 point offensive clinic against Kansas State where they shot 64.1% from the field and 62.5% from three. Kansas consistently gets great looks offensively due to their scheme and execution.
I mentioned this in the first Kansas preview, but the Jayhawk ball movement is incredible. They pass the ball quickly and are decisive on offense. Kansas opens up passing lanes with great screens and cuts, and exposes defenses that play flat footed. There is rarely a ball stopper for Kansas, and when the ball is put on the floor it is for a purpose.
The Jayhawks are an incredibly efficient offense. Kansas is shooting 49.8% from the field, good for 4th in the country. If you watch any additional Kansas highlights you will see that they finish at a high level inside. Also the passing and cutting creates a ton of open looks that the Jayhawks often knock down.
A key contributor to Kansas’ field goal percentage is that they are patient offensively. It is rare that you will see a Jayhawk player take the first look they get, Agbaji included. Kansas will always look to make sure the shot they take is a great one.
Kansas doesn’t shoot a ton of threes, only about 20 per game; largely due in part to their commitment to score inside. But, Kansas knocks down three balls at a high rate. When I was watching the tape I kept thinking to myself, “do these clowns ever miss?” Because it seems like every three they take they bury, obviously an exaggeration. I had to check the numbers and sure enough, Kansas ranks 48th in the country shooting 36.6% from deep.
Last but certainly not least, Kansas gets out in transition in a hurry. This was a key contributor to the Jayhawks taking a big lead against Baylor earlier this month. It seemed like every miss Baylor had (yes all 50 of them), Kansas got out in transition and had easy looks. The Bears will have to limit transition opportunities on Saturday.
We all probably remember far too well how much of a well oiled machine Kansas is offensively. So you’re welcome for pouring salt into that open wound!
Let me quote Baylor’s best basketball insider, me, from my first Kansas article, “The Jayhawks defense is not elite. Kansas is in the middle of the road in points allowed per game and opponent field goal percentage. The reality is that Kansas doesn’t have to be some defensive juggernaut because the offense is so good.” I am so sorry because the Jayhawks absolutely stifled us in Lawrence.
Even though Kansas had an out of body defensive experience in the first matchup with us, they still have been middle of the pack statistically on defense this year. Don’t get me wrong, there have been flashes of greatness sprinkled in. Most of the flashes of greatness have been at home fueled by the Phog Allen energy. But still the players have to make plays.
One thing we saw Kansas take advantage of was jumping passing lanes, especially on lackadaisical passes by the Bears. Kansas’ active play in passing lanes is a huge reason why the Jayhawks are deadly in transition.
Kansas continues to switch almost every ball screen. The Jayhawks have the ability to switch every position, with the exception of David McCormack who instead will show a switch and then try to get back to his man. The toughest part of this is that Kansas is so quick on switches that it almost eliminates any space a screen could create.
Kansas Players to Watch
#30 Ochai Agbaji – Guard
Ochai Agbaji is a 6’ 5” Senior guard, and is one of the best players in the country. Agbaji is averaging 20.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and 1.7 APG on 51% shooting. Agbaji can score from all three levels, and is particularly dangerous from deep, shooting 44.5% from three.
In the first matchup with Baylor, Agbaji was a force on offense. He had 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists. He got to the rim at will and was able to space the floor creating opportunities for others. Agbaji also played solid defense and was blanketing whoever he guarded.
#2 Christian Braun – Guard
I freaking told you guys. This dude Christian Braun had his fingerprints all over our first game with Kansas and showed how much of a roach he is. At the risk of recycling material, I will keep my original rant in this article because it holds water. This dude is a clown.
Slight rant incoming. Christian Braun is a 6’ 6” Junior guard, and easily my least favorite and the most annoying Jayhawk. I have already come to grips with the fact that I will be shouting Saturday because of Christian Braun. Also he pronounces his last name ‘Brown’ how dumb is that. Hooked on Phonics, ever heard of it Christian? Total slap.
Braun is the second option for the Jayhawks offensively and is a well rounded combo guard. Braun would be the first option on any other team except for Kansas. He is a bonafide scorer. He averages 15.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, and 3.0 APG. Braun is second on the team in steals at 1.1 SPG and leads the Jayhawks in blocks with 1.0 BPG.
Braun moves well without the ball, is an great scorer inside, and one of Kansas’ best passers. He makes a ton of plays for Kansas on both ends of the court and is the energy of this Kansas team.
In the first matchup with Baylor, Braun had 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 assists. He is also credited with one broken television remote in the MacKinnon household.
#33 David McCormack – Forward
David McCormack is a 6’ 10” Senior forward and is one of the best big men in the country. McCormack averages 9.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 1.0 BPG. McCormack has been efficient on both ends of the floor this year.
Offensively McCormack does almost all of his damage inside. He can knock down open jumpers from the elbow, but isn’t much of a threat outside the paint.
On defense McCormack is exactly what you would look for in a prototypical big man. He is a stopper at the rim and has the ability to flash onto guards for a moment to stall pick and rolls.
In the first matchup with Baylor, McCormack benefited from the friendly officiating in Phog Allen. He had 9 points with 7 of them coming from the stripe.
#3 Dajuan Harris Jr. – Guard
Dajuan Harris Jr. is a 6’ 1” Sophomore guard. Harris is the primary point guard for the Jayhawks. He leads the Jayhawks in assists with 4.2 APG and steals with 1.6 SPG to go with 5.7 PPG.
Harris is Kansas’ best passer and creates for others on almost every possession. He is an unselfish player that is always looking to put his teammates in a position for success. Harris is a huge reason that Agbaji, Braun, and McCormack get such good looks.
Harris dished out 7 assists in the first matchup with Baylor, carving our defense with on time and quick passes.
#10 Jalen Wilson – Forward
Jalen Wilson is a 6’ 8” Sophomore forward. Wilson is a great athlete and is a true ‘slasher’ forward. Wilson leads the Jayhawks in rebounding with 7.2 RPG; and is one of the Jayhawks more consistent offensive threats, third on the team in scoring at 10.7 PPG. Wilson is a great transition player and gets out running off of defensive stops.
In the first game in Lawrence Wilson had 15 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block. His fingerprints were all over the game and he absolutely annihilated us. He was 7-10 from the field and 6-6 on two point shots.
Wilson’s athleticism shows wherever he is on the floor. He gets to the rim whenever he wants offensively, and is a lockdown defender for the Jayhawks.
#55 Jalen Coleman-Lands – Guard
Jalen Coleman-Lands is a 6’ 4” Senior guard, throughout the season has been Kansas’ primary three point shooter off the bench. However, against Baylor Coleman-Lands showed that he has the ability to be a well rounded rotation player as Kansas enters postseason play.
Coleman-Lands had 8 points, 1 assist, and 2 rebounds against the Bears in 11 minutes off the bench. Strangely enough Coleman-Lands didn’t knock down a three against Baylor.
#44 Mitch Lightfoot – Forward
Mitch Lightfoot is a 6’ 8” Senior forward, and everyone should know and recognize this dude. Lightfoot has been at Kansas for like 8 years, and is on the Perry Ellis program. I am fully confident that Mitch will find a way to play at Kansas next year.
Lightfoot isn’t a big contributor for the Jayhawks, playing only 12 minutes per game. But he makes the most of his minutes, averaging 5.0 PPG and 3.2 RPG in limited action.
Lightfoot was a perfect 4-4 from the field scoring 8 points, grabbing 5 rebounds, and had 2 blocks earlier this month in Lawrence. He continues to be consistent and leads the Jayhawks in field goal percentage at 64.8%.
Again, I think the tape and our first hand experience show us that this Kansas team can compete for a national championship. They don’t have a glaring weakness that can be exploited. Their players are experienced, tough, and talented. Bill Self is a great coach and has shown he can get his team ready for any situation.
The bottom line is this: Baylor will have to be almost perfect to beat Kansas. Here’s how they can be.
How Baylor Wins
Back on our ‘How’ instead of ‘Why’ bs and it’s painful.
Baylor’s rotation is basically down to 7 guys with LJ and EJ out. We forget how deep this team could’ve been if Langston Love didn’t get hurt prior to the season starting. The rotation of Thamba, EJ, Sochan, Brown, Mayer, Akinjo, Flagler, Cryer, Love, and Bonner still keeps me up at night.
But that isn’t what we need to focus on today. Here is what the 7 guys we have left will have to do, almost perfectly, to beat Kansas.
#0 Flo Thamba – @Flo_T3
Flo stepped up and has been playing about 30 minutes per game since EJ went down. This is about 11 minutes more than his season average. The most impressive thing to me is that in the four full games without EJ, Flo hasn’t fouled out.
Flo will need to play solid defense as the primary rim protector for the Bears. If Flo can limit easy looks inside, and defend straight up without fouling, I consider that a win and productive game for him on defense.
Offensively we will need Flo to convert inside when given looks. It blows my mind how regularly Flo gets blocked at the rim for a guy who is 6’ 10”. Against Kansas Baylor cannot afford to let easy looks go unfinished. We need Flo to make his layups, or better yet try and dunk the ball, when given the chance.
#1 Jeremy Sochan – @SochanJeremy
Sochan may be who has been the most stretched in EJ’s absence. Sochan has been put in the position to play the 5 instead of his typical stretch 4 position. I think Sochan has answered the call well and gives Baylor a ton of versatility on offense when he is at the 5.
However, it does concern me that if Sochan gets switched onto McCormack he will pick up quick fouls. McCormack is massive and physically dominant and I am not sure that Sochan is there quite yet. I expect Drew to go back to the zone looks they gave OSU to help eliminate unfavorable matchups for Sochan when he is playing the 5.
Sochan has been flat out dominant in the high post and his crafty Euro-league game has been a saving grace for Baylor offensively. I think Sochan is one of our more consistent scorers from 15 feet and in. If Sochan can attack the Kansas defense from the elbow and either create for himself off the pivot, or look to create for others, it opens up a whole new dimension for this Baylor offense.
I want to end my section on Sochan with this. Sochan recently posted on Instagram and included screenshots from racist dm’s he had received from what I’m assuming is a “Baylor fan.” In quotes because whoever this was, is not a true representation of Baylor Nation. There is no room for this in sports or life in general. We have to be better as a society, lifting up athletes who bear burdens we cannot understand. I’m sure this happens to almost all of our players, and thank you Jeremy Sochan for bringing it to light. I hope we can all learn from this and the entire Baylor team is getting the support and love they deserve.
#2 Kendall Brown – @TheeKbrown
I really think this is the game where Kendall Brown goes off. The talent is just too huge for me to think that he won’t bust out this year. So what not in the biggest game of the year?
Brown’s athleticism is a matchup nightmare for any defender. I really don’t think there is a single guy in the country that Brown can’t blow by. The question is, does KB think this too? We need to see a killer mentality from Brown, and as much as I love his unselfishness, let’s see him get his.
I think Brown can help slow down the Kansas offense if he plays defense with his feet. His speed and length make him an incredible help side defender, and I would love to see him try and help out defending shots at the rim.
If Kendall can knock down a couple shots or get a couple easy layups early, it will be huge for his confidence, and the Ferrell will erupt. It really is all mental with KB and I think he gets over the hump and realizes he is one of the best talents on the court.
#3 Dale Bonner – @dalebonne
Bonner continues to be a utility guard for the Bears. He has grown into a confident and smart player for Coach Drew. In the game in Lawrence, Bonner had 6 points and played with high energy. The bigger Kansas guards did present a bit of a matchup issue for Bonner, but he held his own for the most part.
I expect much of the same from Bonner this weekend. If he can give Baylor a solid 15 minutes off the bench with limited turnovers and fouls, it will be the production we need while Akinjo and Flagler rest.
The interesting piece of Bonner’s game is that for a stretch this season he has shown the ability to create for himself and others on offense. I expect Bonner to bury a couple of jumpers and hand out a few assists against Kansas.
#4 LJ Cryer – @LjCryer
I don’t think LJ plays and I have read from a few unverified sources on Twitter that he is done for the year. So I am also leaving him in this eye test to wish him well.
Get better soon and we will see you next year.
#10 Adam Flagler – @adamflagler
Adam Flagler isn’t the hero we deserve but the hero we need, or however that saying goes. I pledge allegiance to the Flagler of the United Bears of the Ferrell Center, and to the three ball for which it falls, one team, one God, one family, with buckets and Sic ‘Ems for all.
But in all seriousness, and in an attempt to avoid slandering our national traditions any further, Flagler has been absolutely butter when “healthy.” Clearly the knee has continued to bother him, but he is showing his toughness playing through it.
Am I saying we need another 29 point performance out of Flagler to beat Kansas, no; but it certainly wouldn’t hurt. When Flagler is knocking down shots, it opens the floor for everyone else and gives Baylor the spacing needed to run the offense.
I really think Flagler balls out this game and draws a few charges to change any momentum that goes Kansas’ way. I am all in on him leading us as the regular season winds down and we turn our eyes to March. Here’s a reminder why.
Casual 29 point night for @adamflagler #SicEm | #CultureofJOY pic.twitter.com/3r4sqIuzuh— Baylor Men’s Basketball (@BaylorMBB) February 22, 2022
#11 James Akinjo – @akinjojames3 (Insta no Twitter for our boy)
Say whatever you want about James Akinjo’s game on the court, but I will tell you what this dude is cold blooded and a grinder. Is he streaky offensively, sure, but what you will never question with him is his toughness and heart.
Akinjo literally had nothing going for him against OSU, but turned it on in overtime, knocking down the game winning jumper. I would have lost it if he did the Dame Time watch tap in ode to his Oakland brother, but I think that is what is so dope about Akinjo; he’s a silent killer.
This weekend we need Akinjo to play primarily as a distributor. Baylor’s offense runs so well when we are passing first and dribbling second. The looks Akinjo can open up with his creative passing will be a huge difference maker. I would love for Akinjo to drive the rim first when looking for a shot, and take the pull up jumper second.
Defensively Akinjo has to impact the game with on ball pressure. Akinjo is probably one of the quickest players to ever put on the green and gold and if he can stay in front of the Kansas ball handlers it will help limit good looks for the Jayhawks.
We need Akinjo to push the ball in transition and keep Kansas off balance. I think he does it and Saturday will be one of the best games we have seen from Akinjo since he got hurt in January.
#23 Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (Everyday Jon aka EJ) – @JonathanTchamwa
I would be so hyped if EJ is on the sidelines, they said he’s close to rejoining the team. If so that would be a huge emotional boost and the Ferrell would be electric.
Keep on healing my guy.
#24 Matthew Mayer – @MatthewMayer24
I know that Mayer is always this X-Factor and we never really know what we are going to get out of him on offense. But one thing he has done consistently is defend his butt off.
Mayer will need to lead Baylor by playing with energy on both ends of the floor. If Mayer can get downhill and to the rim, not settling for the first open look he sees, I think it is scary hours for the slaps in Lawrence.
In what is likely one of the biggest home games in Mayer’s Baylor career, I think he is going to go off. He didn’t play great in the matchup in Lawrence, but he has always been a vibes player and the vibes in the Ferrell will be elite.
If Mayer sees the ball go through the hoop once or twice it will be microwave inferno season and I expect him to get going. Couple that with a steal and a block and it will be full blown Matthew Mayer Time.
After writing that I am borderline all in on us getting this thing done Saturday. Anyway, here’s one last regular season preview.
Intros will be electric, the student section will be electric, the opening prayer and national anthem will be electric, the entire atmosphere will be electric leading up to tip off.
The game will open with Kansas going on a run, everyone relax. I think the Jayhawks will open up something like a 6-8 point lead going into the first media timeout. I will like you be reaching for the panic button and wishing the Ferrell Center sold hazy Dr. Peppers.
But, Scott Drew will make the necessary adjustments and Baylor will answer with a run of its own getting the crowd back into the game. I think it will be tight throughout much of the first half. A back and forth game with both teams throwing haymakers.
Baylor will cut the deficit to 2-4 at halftime and will have finished the first half on a mini-run. Nothing crazy, like a little 8-2 run or something like that.
Then the roof will blow off in the second half. Baylor will come out clicking on all cylinders after Drew makes some adjustments. We will open up a 5 point lead and Billy Self will call a timeout.
The tides will turn and it will be Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun time. I think Agbaji and Braun will go on a mini run of their own getting Kansas back in the game and taking a lead.
The Bears will fight back as the second half winds down and tie the game with about three minutes left. It will be tight, with the Bears and Jayhawks trading buckets into the final possession. Baylor hits a game winner on well drawn up play by Coach Drew and we vibe into eternity.
Baylor 74 – Kansas 71
Sic ‘Em Bears.