Preview: Kansas at Baylor

Without attempting the folly of ranking the importance of the various areas in which the Kansas Jayhawks Men's Basketball Team has struggled since they benefited from Oklahoma State's capitulation, I will simply propose that it's due to some combination of missing easy shots (observational and unquantified), not scoring at the free throw line (The team's free throw rate on the year has dropped 5% in just the last four games. The team's free throw rate in conference play is 28% lower than in non-conference play.), and not getting offensive rebounds (season average: 37.5%; vs. OSU: 25%; vs. ISU: 42.9%; vs. MU: 18.9%; @TT: 31.4%). Sort of encouragingly, turnovers haven't been a problem for the Jayhawks offensively (outside of the first half in Ames) since they played DePaul and USC. Because they are giving the ball away far less often (though a disconcerting percentage of the turnovers still seem to occur in fast break situations), they don't need to improve greatly in any of the above three emboldened areas to get their offensive efficiency back up to a level that successfully takes adavantage of the team's generally good defensive play.

At least two of those three things should be ameliorated by playing Baylor tonight. So far in conference play, Baylor have allowed opponents to get 41.2% of possible offensive rebounds and given their opponents one free throw attempt for every two-and-a-half field goal attempts.

Offensively, Baylor have struggled to make shots (Kevin Rogers is the only Bear shooting above 50 eFG% in conference play) but have remained competitive (with the obvious exception of their last game @Oklahoma) by not turning the ball over (TO% at 20 or below in four out of five games) and shooting a bunch of threes (at least 40% of their field goal attempts have been three-pointers in each conference game).

Baylor has shot three-pointers well against their worst opponents (they're shooting 34.3% on the season) but have been awful both in their at-risk games (26.9% vs. Colorado State, @Gonzaga, South Carolina, @Syracuse, @Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, @Kansas State, and @Oklahoma) and in Big 12 play (28.8%).

Kansas's three-point field goal defense is likely better than popular perception suggests. (Only likely as my perception of popular perception may well be fundamentally flawed.) On the year, opponents are shooting 33.1%. Big 12 opponents are shooting 31.2%. Oral Roberts, DePaul, and Texas Tech did combine to shoot 48% on threes, however.

Kansas will continue to struggle offensively as long as Rush, Wright, and Chalmers continue to be the team's least efficient offensive players. Baylor, even in their home losses, have been a much better defensive team in Waco. That they are the less talented team, shoot a lot of three-pointers, and surrender a lot of free throw attempts should only encourage them to limit possessions as much as possible. Kansas will have to grind out a victory tonight. Even if the Jayhawks play more efficiently than they have over the last three games it may not be readily apparent. An eight- or ten-point win tonight could easily be the equal of the eighteen-point home win over Boston College in terms of efficiency margin. Any win, of course, will do.

Prediction: Kansas 69 Baylor 61

Tables and such after the jump...

KANSAS OFFENSE v. BAYLOR DEFENSE

(all games)

Team eFG% OR% TO% FT Rate FT% PPP
KU off 53.3 37.5 20.7 23.4 66.3 1.10
BU def 48.3 34.0 20.8 37.7 67.7 1.02

BAYLOR OFFENSE v. KANSAS DEFENSE

(all games)

Team eFG% OR% TO% FT Rate FT% PPP
BU off 53.1 36.3 21.6 24.2 68.7 1.09
KU def 43.5 30.6 25.5 31.0 65.2 0.86

KANSAS OFFENSE v. BAYLOR DEFENSE

(Big 12 games only)

Team eFG% OR% TO% FT Rate FT% PPP
KU off 52.7 30.3 20.5 19.2 63.0 1.03
BU def 50.3 41.2 16.9 39.5 74.3 1.16

BAYLOR OFFENSE v. KANSAS DEFENSE

(Big 12 games only)

Team eFG% OR% TO% FT Rate FT% PPP
BU off 44.3 36.5 21.4 22.0 66.7 0.96
KU def 45.4 27.6 20.3 33.8 65.0 0.94

AT-RISK PROFILE FOR BAYLOR

Team Record Off Eff Def Eff Diff
Baylor 1-7 96 114 -18

Win: vs. Colorado State (+6)

Losses: @Gonzaga (-16), South Carolina (-4), @Syracuse (-31), @Oklahoma State (-7), Texas A&M (-19), @Kansas State (-17), @Oklahoma (-58)

Also: Texas Tech (+3)

AT-RISK PROFILE FOR KANSAS

Team Record Off Eff Def Eff Diff
Kansas 5-3 102 96 +6

Wins: vs. Ball State (+25), vs. Florida (+7), vs. Toledo (+16), @South Carolina (+25), @Iowa State (+2)

Losses: Oral Roberts (-14), @DePaul (-11), @Texas Tech (-9)

Also: USC (+14), Boston College (+25), Oklahoma State (+38)

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