It would surprise no one if Monday night’s Baylor-Kansas matchup is a preview of the Big 12 Tournament Championship Game. Despite losing stars Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor off last year’s national runner-up team, KU was the overwhelming preseason conference favorite as usual. KU was the regular-season Big 12 champ a year ago and has either won or shared the regular-season title in the conference in each of the past eight seasons. The only other team to receive a first-place vote among the coaches in preseason balloting? That would be Baylor, which lost in last year’s conference tournament final to Missouri. The Bears (11-4) are currently atop the Big 12 as the only 3-0 team in conference play. KU (14-1, 2-0) is the highest-ranked conference team, No. 6 entering this week.
Baylor at Kansas Betting Story Lines
Kansas has won 13 straight games since its loss to Michigan State on Nov. 13 in the Georgia Dome. The Jayhawks are one of the best offensive teams in the country, ranking No. 11 in shooting (.497), No. 18 in assists (16.7 per game) and No. 28 in points (38.9 per game). However, Kansas does enter off its lowest-scoring game of the season, a 60-46 win at Texas Tech on Saturday. Kansas shot just 27.8 percent in taking a two-point lead to intermission but then was 14-of-23 in the second half as it steadily pulled away. Guard Travis Releford had 12 points for KU and is 27-for-34 (79.4 percent) from the floor in his past six games.
KU has arguably the nation’s best center in Jeff Withey, who averages 13.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and a 4.8 blocks per game (No. 2 nationally). He had 12 blocks earlier this year in a win over San Jose State. And, in my opinion, KU does have the nation’s best freshman – all due respect to UNLV’s Anthony Bennett and Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel and anyone else who might have an argument – in Ben McLemore. Coach Bill Self calls McLemore perhaps the most talented player he has ever coached, which is definitely saying something. The 6-foot-5 McLemore leads the team in scoring at 16.4 points per game (No. 2 in Big 12) and is shooting 50 percent from the field. He’s almost certainly going to be a one-and-done player and will be a Top-5 pick in this summer’s NBA Draft.
Baylor also enters off its lowest-scoring game of the season, a 51-40 home win over TCU on Saturday. It was the fewest points Baylor has ever allowed in a Big 12 game. Pierre Jackson, Baylor's senior point guard and best player, had 11 points and six assists in the win. Jackson, who leads the Big 12 in scoring (19.2 points per game) and is second in assists (6.3 per game), has scored in double figures in 23 straight games, averaging 18.6 points and 6.3 assists in that stretch.
These two met three times last year, with Kansas winning two of them. But the Bears took the one that really mattered. In the game in Lawrence, No. 7 Kansas handed No. 3 Baylor, then 17-0, its first loss of the season with a 92-74 blowout. KU’s Robinson and Taylor dominated, combining for 55 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists. Withey had 10 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. It was Kansas’ 10th straight home win in the series. The 17-game winning streak was the longest ever for Baylor to start a season.
The rematch in Waco was about the same, with No. 10 KU beating No. 6 Baylor 68-54. Withey was a beast that night with a career-high 25 points, five rebounds and three blocks. But the Bears got the last word, upsetting the No. 3 Jayhawks 81-72 in the Big 12 Tournament semifinals. Jackson had 13 points, seven assists and five rebounds to lead Baylor.
KU leads the all-time series 18-3.
Baylor at Kansas College Basketball Betting Odds and Key Trends
KU is an 11-point favorite with the total at 141 on BookMaker. Kansas is 6-8 ATS (3-5 at home) and 7-4 “over/under”. Baylor is 5-6 ATS (3-0 on road) and 5-5 O/U.
Baylor is 8-2 ATS in its past 10 games after an ATS loss. The Bears are 1-4 ATS in their past five games after allowing less than 50 points in their previous game. KU is 2-5 ATS in its past seven after an ATS loss. The Jayhawks are 1-4 ATS in their past five Big 12 games. The over is 4-1 in Baylor’s past five games against teams with a winning record. The under is 6-0 in KU’s past six Monday games. The road team has covered in 13 of the past 14 meetings. The over is 4-1 in the past five.
Baylor at Kansas Picks and Betting Predictions
A win tonight would be historic for Baylor, as it is 0-10 all-time in road games against Kansas. It has just two wins overall vs. KU against in 12 tries since Scott Drew became coach. Baylor already has one very good road victory on its resume this season, winning 64-55 at No. 8 Kentucky on Dec. 1. The Bears also visited a ranked Gonzaga team on Dec. 28 and lost 94-87. They have won three straight since.
Baylor does have the size to help neutralize Withey in 6-foot-9 forward Cory Jefferson, who leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage (63.4), is second in blocks (2.3 per game) and second in rebounding (8.4), and 7-foot-1 freshman center Isaiah Austin. He’s second in the conference in rebounding (8.4), fourth in shooting (52.4) and fifth in scoring (14.6). Austin is a lock Top-10 pick if he comes out after one season as well. It should be a close game. Take the Bears and the over.