Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, January 19, 2014 at 7:00 PM
It’s been a stunning start to Big 12 play so far for the Baylor Bears. They were supposed to be a serious threat to Kansas and Oklahoma State at the top of the standings. They were sitting at #12 in last week’s edition of the AP rankings…meaning they were considered (by the media at least) to be a Sweet 16 contender.
Other than a blowout win over a poor TCU team, Baylor’s Big 12 slate looks like this:
Baylor (+7.5) lost at Iowa State 87-72
Baylor (-4.5) lost at Texas Tech 82-72
Baylor (-7.5) lost vs. Oklahoma 66-64
They missed the spread by 22.5, 14.5, and 9.5 points! An early December win over Kentucky on a neutral court in ice-bound Dallas is way back in the rearview mirror. The mid-January version of Baylor doesn’t even look like a tournament caliber team, let alone a Sweet 16 squad.
And, the respected computer rankings we follow in the NOTEBOOK are suggesting this is now a BUBBLE team! Remember as we look at the output from college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy and USA Today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin that Baylor was #12 in the AP this past weekend.
Baylor: #44 in Pomeroy, #45 in Sagarin
Kansas: #8 in Pomeroy, #7 in Sagarin
Wow…both agree that Baylor is barely on the right side of the bubble right now (usually the top 50 or so get into the Dance before automatic berths by smaller conferences fill out the brackets). A bad loss at Kansas, and the Bears will fall even further into trouble. The good news is that they catch the Jayhawks in a letdown spot off their big game this past Saturday vs. Oklahoma State. Maybe Kansas will come out flat-footed. Baylor better hope they do!
Offensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)
Baylor’s strength has been on offense this season. But, you can see that they still don’t grade out as well as Kansas. Even though Andrew Wiggins was largely invisible against Okie State two days ago, Kansas as a whole still scored enough to get the job done. A lot of weapons for both of these teams, which should at least create an exciting game to watch.
Defensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)
This is where Baylor is in big trouble, which you could have deduced by all the points allowed vs. Iowa State and Texas Tech. Baylor has to compete in Lawrence, Kansas with little rest while facing one of the best offenses in the country! Baylor doesn’t just need to hope Kansas comes out flat-footed. That may be their only chance to avoid embarrassment. Huge disadvantage here for the Bears.
That will probably surprise you. If you only casually follow the sport, you don’t think of Baylor as a slow, “walk-it-up” kind of team. That’s what they are. They play like Wisconsin! And, that makes those poor points allowed performances you saw earlier even worse. They allowed a lot of points as a slow team. Kansas is much faster, and will try to force Baylor into a faster pace. Typically the home team has more success forcing its tempo onto a game. But, if Kansas is flat off their big TV win, there’s a chance they could get pulled into the mud.
Against the Spread
Both teams have been disappointments overall. Kansas was right at 50/50 before the non-cover vs. Oklahoma State. Baylor’s very slow start in league play has dragged them down. Tricky challenge for oddsmakers because both of these teams have been overrated…and Kansas has been inconsistent even when things are going relatively well.
JIM HURLEY knows the key to this cover will be mindset for both teams. The matchup situation is very clear. If Kansas is flat, then Baylor can impose a slower pace on the game and try to spring an upset in their comfort zone. If Kansas is ready to go…well, the Jayhawks are better than the three teams that just embarrassed Baylor in market terms. The right read means an easy winner for NETWORK clients!
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Back Tuesday to run our key indicator numbers for Indiana/Michigan State in college hoops. Wednesday, we’ll look at Duke/Miami in what’s become an intense ACC rivalry. Join us every day for great handicapping information in the big TV games. And, link up with JIM HURLEY for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!