No. 4 Kansas at Baylor
• WHEN/WHERE: 5 p.m. Saturday at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas
• TV/RADIO: ESPN; KCSP (610 AM)
• ABOUT BAYLOR (17-13, 8-9 Big 12): It’s easy to forget now, but Kansas coach Bill Self thought highly enough of Baylor to pick them to win the Big 12 Conference in the preseason coaches’ poll. (By rule, Self couldn’t vote for his own team.) … So what’s happened to Baylor? The Bears have lost five of six and haven’t beaten a team in the upper half of the league since topping Oklahoma State on Jan. 21. One reason, the Bears’ rank 79th in the nation in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com. And the offense is largely dependent on senior Pierre Jackson, a high-volume shooter who doesn’t shoot a high percentage. … Baylor freshman Isaiah Austin is a 7-foot-1 center who can step out and knock down threes, but he can be pushed around inside. KU senior forward Kevin Young may draw the assignment on Austin, meaning center Jeff Withey can stay around the basket.
• ABOUT KANSAS (26-4, 14-3 Big 12): During a seven-game winning streak, the Jayhawks have returned to their roots: Sound defense. Aside from Iowa State’s three-point barrage in Ames, Kansas has allowed just 55.2 points per game during the stretch run. … The Jayhawks still lead the country in field-goal percentage defense, and their overall defensive efficiency ranks fourth in the nation. … Senior guard Elijah Johnson has started to play better, but the Jayhawks are a victory away from nine straight Big 12 regular-season titles because they get stops. … On offense, KU freshman guard Ben McLemore will try to squash the knock that his skills don’t travel. McLemore is averaging 21.8 points at home during conference play, and just 10.4 on the road. … The Jayhawks hold an 8-1 all-time record in Waco, with the last loss coming in 2001. KU has suffered two other losses to Baylor during the Big 12 era, both coming in the Big 12 tourney (2009 and 2012).
• BOTTOM LINE: When the conference season began, most figured Kansas would have the Big 12 title locked up by the regular season’s final weekend. Baylor has home-court advantage. But KU has a veteran-laden roster, a better coach and must win to guarantee a share of the title. Advantage, Jayhawks.
| Rustin Dodd, email@example.com