Before every KU basketball game, The Star’s Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.
Friday’s game: No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 22 Baylor, 6 p.m. on ESPN2
Opponent record: 22-10
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 24
Point spread: KU by 7.
All statistics from KenPom.com and Hoop-Math.com. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Offensive rebounding: Baylor is the top offensive rebounding team in the Big 12 and third-best in the nation.
▪ Creating steals: The Bears are 14th nationally in defensive steal percentage, with many of those coming thanks to the Amoeba zone they play.
▪ Jump-shooting: Baylor ranks 35th nationally in mid-range jumpshot percentage, and though it doesn’t shoot threes often, it ranks top 50 in three-point percentage as well.
▪ First-shot defense: Baylor tends to allow plenty of open shots, as Big 12 opponents made 41 percent of their threes and 50 percent of their twos against the Bears.
▪ Turnovers: Baylor is 233rd in offensive turnover percentage, with point guard Lester Medford giving it away more than you’d expect.
▪ Whistles: The Bears are worse than NCAA average when it comes to defensive free-throw rate, which is surprising considering how much zone defense they play.
Player to Watch
Six-foot-8 forward Taurean Prince (No. 21)
Plus: Baylor’s best player against Texas on Thursday with 24 points and 11 rebounds
Plus: Has improved his efficiency in Big 12 play while taking on large offensive role
Plus: Above-average finisher at the rim (67 percent)
Plus: Strong, high-volume shooter from three (37 percent)
Minus: Falls in love with mid-range jumper, where he’s only average
Minus: Does turn it over on occasion
It’s been a cold string of picks lately, so I admit I’m not feeling confident with my against-the-spread record plummeting near .500.
At first glance, this line seems too high to me. Though KU coach Bill Self hasn’t committed to limiting his guys’ minutes in order to rest them for next week, I think the possibility still remains that he eases up a bit while knowing this game doesn’t mean much compared to the NCAA Tournament.
The one advantage KU will have is the crowd. With Iowa State losing, even more Jayhawks fans will be able to make it into Sprint Center, where Bears fans should be hard to spot.
And even if KU plays more bench guys, could it still beat Baylor? That’s definitely possible, even after the Bears’ impressive 14-point victory Thursday against Texas.
Kansas 73, Baylor 70
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Baylor
Hawk to Rock
If Baylor remains turnover prone while allowing open shots on the perimeter, I like my chances while taking Devonte’ Graham as HTR. He had only one steal in the teams’ last matchup on Feb. 23, but I have a feeling he’s in line for double-figure points with three or more takeaways Friday.
Last game prediction: Kansas 71, Kansas State 62 (Actual KU 85-63)
2015-16 record vs. spread: 15-14
Last two seasons’ record vs. spread: 37-26-1