Baylor will be in town tonight for a huge Big Monday matchup. I never really get into the “must-win” scenarios this early in the season, but a victory tonight would go a long way for both teams come late February. It will be a huge game, and I expect the Fieldhouse to be rocking.
Some quick thoughts on the matchup:
We haven’t played a team like this since we played Kentucky. The same Kentucky that gave us fits. Baylor may be the only other team in the country that matches up with the Wildcats from a pure length and athleticism perspective. And Kentucky manhandled us. I know it was close in the first half, but it shouldn’t have been. The good news is that this Kansas team is a much different Kansas team than we saw on November 15. I think we’ll be more prepared for it this time around. The equalizer will be whether we are able to knock down some open shots that we will be able to create by going inside-out.
I hate the say it, but I hope Conner doesn’t get a ton of minutes off the bench tonight. He will be such a liability on the defensive end that I don’t think his 2-6 from 3-point range will be worth it. Against most teams, we can cover for Conner with additional help every time he gets blown by. Unfortunately tonight, we’ll need to preserve Thomas and Jeff from foul trouble. That all said, we’ll need to make some perimeter shots and Conner may be our best option. We’ll need Elijah, Travis, and Tyshawn to do better than 29% from three tonight. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for an Elijah coming-out-party.
Tyshawn will be the most important player tonight, as he has been most nights. He was the single reason we didn’t lose to Kentucky by 25 points. He has proven time and time again that he can get by his man at any time he wants. Hopefully tonight he’ll keep attacking. As Self alluded to in his post-game comments after Iowa State, it would be ideal if Taylor penetrates with the idea of passing when he draws help defense. I agree to some extent, but when we have difficulty scoring, he needs to be able to take over much like he did in the second half on Saturday. He can be instant offense when he’s on. We’ll need him to be on tonight.
As awesome as it was, I think we saw an aberration on Saturday when Kansas played great absent Thomas. Throughout the year, we have been better with him on the floor, and tonight we will definitely need his 18 and 12 to win. He’ll need to muscle up and play hard on defense, but be mindful of foul trouble. You have to think Baylor will take it right to him. Likewise, Withey has been a very important player the last few weeks. We’ll need him tonight, especially on the defensive end of the floor. He’ll be able to take up room and deter some penetration. I also put the over-under on his fouls at 4.5…and I’m taking the over. Just hope it’s very late in the game.
This isn’t the same kind of Baylor team we’ve seen before. It is loaded with as much talent as a non-Kansas team has been since I can remember. And they’re not freshman. They’re veteran players that have been around the block. Allen won’t intimidate them at the beginning of the game. It will, however, intimidate them if things don’t start off well. The key for Kansas will be to get off to a good start. I want to see the K-State game, not the Iowa State game. If we give them momentum early, the crowd won’t be quite as stiff and they’ll be able to continue playing their game. If we come out strong, our guys will feed off the crowd and the building. That’s when Baylor could be distracted and see what so many other great teams have seen inside the Fieldhouse — the PHOG.
It has long been said that Baylor Coach Scott Drew is a fantastic recruiter and a very average basketball coach. I don’t necessarily buy into it, because the same has been said before about Bill Self, and John Calipari, and many other great Xs & Os coaches. That all being said, Kansas certainly has the advantage from the bench. I tend to think Drew has stepped away and let his guys play more loose this year. Baylor, like Kentucky, could probably beat 95% of the teams they face without a coach at all. When a team is loaded with talent, the key for a coach is to get his guys to play with the same intensity on defense as they do on offense. Self and Calipari are great at that. We’ll see how good Drew is tonight.
I think it will be a close game throughout. It would not shock me if Kansas lost the game in the end. Baylor is that good. As long as we can make a few open shots and bother Baylor’s guards on the defensive end, I will take KU. Something like KU 71 Baylor 68 sounds about right.
I’ll be in the house. Hope you will be too. Rock Chalk!
#kubball, Baylor, Big Monday, Bill Self, Conner Teahan, Kansas, Scott Drew, Thomas Robinson, Tyshawn Taylor