Big 12 Battle: Baylor at Kansas

Big 12 Battle: Baylor at Kansas

No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks vs. No. 9 Baylor Bears

Line: Kansas -5

Total: 149

Where: Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kansas

When: Saturday, 2/18 at 4:00 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

No. 9 Baylor will be looking for a rare win at Allen Fieldhouse when it travels to No. 5 Kansas on Saturday afternoon.

The Bears have lost 18 of their last 19 games in Lawrence, but they beat Kansas at home earlier this season. They are both tied with Texas for first place in the Big 12 standings, with all three teams entering Saturday’s slate with four losses in conference play.

DraftKings gives Kansas a slight edge to win the league at +110, but Texas (+250) and Baylor (+260) could drastically change their fortunes over the next week. The Bears and Longhorns will meet next Saturday afternoon, while Kansas and Texas will square off in the final week of the regular season.

As for Saturday’s game, offshore sportsbook BetOnline opened Kansas as a 5-point home favorite on Friday afternoon. The Jayhawks have covered the spread in five of their last six games and are 18-1 in their last 19 games at Allen Fieldhouse. Baylor is 4-1 ATS in its last five games, but it has lost 15 of the last 20 meetings between these teams.

The total opened at 148 points before eventually moving up to 149. That’s nearly the closing number of 149.5 when these teams went ‘under’ in Baylor’s 75-69 win as a 2-point home favorite on Jan. 23. They have now gone ‘under’ in 15 of their last 20 head-to-head matchups.

Kansas won for the fifth time in six games when it beat Oklahoma State on Tuesday, using a 15-5 run early in the second half to take a 58-47 lead with 15 minutes remaining. The Jayhawks did not lead by less than seven points the remainder of the way, as freshman Gradey Dick scored 17 of his career-high 26 points in the second half.

They finished 19 of 29 from the floor as a team following the intermission, including 5 of 11 from beyond the arc. Kevin McCullar scored 15 points and dished out eight assists, while KJ Adams Jr. finished with 15 points as well. It was a much-needed performance from a team that has relied heavily on star Jalen Wilson’s 20.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game—he was held to 14 points on 6 of 13 shooting against the Cowboys.

“We have to play that way,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said. “We don’t have guys that are great one-on-one players and so we need to have ball and body movement. When the ball moves like that, I do think we have enough scorers out there, we’re pretty hard to guard.”

The Jayhawks are No. 19 in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency ratings and like to play at a fast pace, ranked No. 47 in average possession length. They are facing a Baylor defense that is No. 206 in defensive field goal percentage.

The Bears have been the hottest team in the Big 12, using 10 wins in their last 11 games to get back into contention atop the standings. Their latest win was a 79-67 decision against West Virginia on Monday.

“From starting out 0-3 (in the Big 12) and now tied for first place, the real fun begins,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “There’s a lot of basketball left to be played.”

Veteran guard LJ Cryer scored 26 points by knocking down a career-high eight 3-pointers on 11 attempts in the comfortable win over the Mountaineers. He has played a key role for an offense that ranks first in KenPom’s efficiency ratings and No. 11 in offensive rebounding percentage.

Adam Flagler scored 13 points and had six assists against West Virginia, while Jalen Bridges (12) and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (11) were both in double figures as well. Leading scorer Keyonte George (16.5) was held to six points, but he had game highs in rebounds (9) and assists (7).

The pick: Baylor +5

I know Baylor has struggled historically in its trips to Allen Fieldhouse, but this is a guard-heavy, experienced lineup that is built to handle that adversity. The Bears have already picked up one win over Kansas this season, and they did not have Tchamwa Tchatchoua available for that contest. He has provided valuable minutes since making his season debut earlier this month, logging at least 20 minutes in three straight games. Kansas has started to turn things around after a rare rough patch under Self, but I am still not comfortable laying this kind of number against the most efficient offense in the country. I wouldn’t be surprised if this game ends up being decided on a late bucket, providing value on Baylor in what I consider to be a coin flip.

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