Before No. 8 Kansas tips off against No. 24 Baylor inside Allen Fieldhouse, we offer our usual five things to know before the Big Monday matchup:
•1. Kansas’ turnover issues:
The Jayhawks returned to the top 10 on Monday on the strength of four straight victories against teams currently ranked in the top 25. But the last two wins also have highlighted one of KU’s most glaring flaws: Turnovers. KU combined for 43 turnovers in wins over Iowa State and Oklahoma State, and those lost possessions wiped out whatever advantage KU had on the glass.
Naadir Tharpe was selected Big 12 player of the week after averaging 22 points in those two games, but he was also responsible for 10 turnovers.
For the season, Kansas’ turnover percentage (20.1) ranks 275th in the country.
You can live with some mistakes from Tharpe if he’s making plays, but it’s a little more alarming that KU freshman Joel Embiid had 11 turnovers in his last two games.
Which leads us to
•2. Joel Embiid’s field-goal attempts.
The 7-foot freshman is shooting 70 percent on his two-point field-goal attempts, but somehow hasn’t managed to take more than eight shots in KU’s last five games. For the season, Embiid has yet to take more than 10 field-goal attempts in a game. (The stat is a little skewed because Embiid has shot more than seven free throws in six games.)
Still, KU coach Bill Self has been consistent in saying this: The Jayhawks need to play through Embiid more. And, of course, Embiid needs to cut down on the turnovers.
•3. The Big 12 race.
Kansas is attempting to start 5-0 in the Big 12 for the third straight season. One reason the Jayhawks have won nine straight Big 12 titles: Fast starts. The Jayhawks have started at least 5-0 in five of the last six seasons.
•4. How good is Baylor?
The Bears have impressive victories over Colorado and Kentucky on the resume, but they’ve stumbled in Big 12 play and their computer profile is starting to fade.
Ranked 42nd in KenPom’s rankings, the Bears may be closer to a No. 8 or 9 seed in the tournament than a top 15 team. And their defense appears to be the primary concern: The Bears currently rank 91st in the country in defensive efficiency, allowing 1.00 points per possession.
•5. Kansas’ Big 12 Monday dominance: Since the inception of the Big 12 in 1996-97, Kansas is 50-16 all-time on ESPN’s Big Monday, including a 27-1 record at home. The Jayhawks’ only loss on Big Monday at Allen Fieldhouse came against Iowa State on Feb. 5, 2001.