Two of the top teams in the Big 12 Conference — and the country — square off on Saturday when the No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks visit the No. 1 Baylor Bears. Both teams come in on long winning streaks, as Kansas has won 11 straight while Baylor is on a 23-game winning streak.
Just one game separates the two teams in the Big 12 standings, where Baylor is on top with a perfect 13-0 mark. That one game would be the Bears’ 67-55 victory over the Jayhawks in early January, their first-ever win at Allen Fieldhouse. Baylor was able to hold Kansas to its fewest points in a home game in 20 years in that contest.
The top-ranked Bears are 1.5-point favorites playing at home, with the over/under for the contest set at 129.5.
Need To Play Big
In the first meeting, Baylor was able to shut down in the interior game of Kansas, notably 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike, who had just six points in the loss. Azubuike, who averages 12.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game, did make an impact on the defensive end with seven blocks against the Bears, but he needs to be a dominant force on both ends for the Jayhawks in the rematch.
Another key player for coach Bill Self’s squad is point guard Devon Dotson, who leads the Jayhawks with 18.4 points per game as well as dishing out 4.2 assists and recording 2.1 steals per contest. Dotson must be able to penetrate the Baylor defense to create opportunities for himself and his teammates, like Ochai Agbaji (10.3 points, 34.7 percent from three) and Marcus Garrett (9.6 points, 34.8 percent).
Baylor may be short-handed for this one with MaCio Teague having missed the last two games with a wrist injury. Teague, who averages 14.4 points, is considered a game-time decision, though it’s hard to believe he would miss this one unless his wrist is extremely bad. He had 16 points and seven rebounds in the first meeting.
Whether Teague plays or not, Jared Butler will need to play big in this one as well. Butler is averaging 15.6 points, 3.0 assists and 1.6 steals this season, and he had 22 points in the previous win over the Jayhawks. With Teague out, he’s raised his offensive game over the last two games, averaging 21.5 points in wins over West Virginia and Oklahoma.
Battling with Azubuike up front, forward Freddie Gillespie will look to be a presence. Gillespie leads the Bears in rebounding with 8.8 per game to go with 2.2 blocks and 9.6 points, but he had 13 points in the win over Kansas.
This could be the second of four parts of this story this season, with the Bears and Jayhawks possibly meeting in the Big 12 tournament and NCAA Tournament if they both continue to play well. Still, this one is a key in regards to seeding for both of those tournaments.
Baylor has been consistently good all season long and has not lost at home. It also has a fantastic defense, holding opponents to just 58.2 points per game. That defense is going to be the edge for the Bears in this one, as they win a close one but cover the 1.5-point spread. Bet on Baylor in this one.