By Ryan Dickey
Kansas heads to Waco tonight for its second meeting of the Big XII season against Baylor (8:00 ET, ESPN2).
Bill Self’s Kansas squad (23-4/11-3 Big 12) will find themselves a short favorite tonight in a rematch against the Bears, a team they toppled 102-74 in Lawrence on Jan. 2.
In the first meeting, Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. scored 24 points, including hitting 5-of-6 three point attempts, to go with five rebounds and four assists in the 28-point victory.
Selden Jr. was joined by Perry Ellis (17), Devonte’ Graham (15), and Frank Mason III (11) in scoring double-digit points against Baylor (20-7/9-5 Big 12).
The Bears were led by Taurean Prince, who scored 17 points on the night.
Baylor shot 3-for-11 from three-point range, and only 39 percent from the floor.
Kansas has beaten Baylor in six consecutive tries and coach Self is 17-4 against the Bears.
Baylor coach Scott Drew knows that his team has to play a better brand of zone defense against Kansas than they did in Lawrence last time out. They had to abandon their base defense and go man-to-man after Kansas went on a huge run early in the game.
Tonight, Kansas backers are only asked to lay 2 ½ points, and that’s the play for this game.
The Jayhawks have lost three true road games this season (at Iowa St., at Oklahoma St., and at West Virginia).
Baylor has lost three home games this year (vs. Texas Tech, vs. Texas, and vs. Oklahoma).
Ellis was injured last game against Kansas St. when he required a dozen stitches behind his right ear, but came back later to play — only to have an eye scratched by a teammate. He missed practice Sunday, but returned to practice Monday after getting a favorable report from an ophthalmologist. Ellis will play tonight.
Kansas is 17-8-0 against the spread this year, however they sport an 8-4-0 record on the road against the spread (ATS). Baylor has an opposite 4-8-0 home ATS record this year and is 8-12-1 overall ATS.
Kansas ranks 15th in the nation in scoring (82.7 points/game), 14th in field goal percentage (49 percent), and is fourth nationally in three-point shooting (42.3 percent).
Baylor averages 78.9 points per game (ranked 51st), shoots 47.6 percent from the field (32nd), and is 71st in the NCAA with a 37 percent three-point shooting average.
The Bears do out-shoot the Jayhawks from the free throw line 74 percent to 71 percent.
Although Johnathan Motley of Baylor has emerged as a scoring threat (back-to-back 20+ point games), he was a non-factor in the first matchup against Kansas.
Look for Kansas to get out to another comfortable lead, keep the crowd out of the game, and coast to an easy-cover victory.
The line opened at Kansas -2 at many outlets, and moved to -2-½, so place your bets early, since all indications are this could be a “public play”.
As a former race and sportsbook supervisor in Las Vegas, I can tell you that the public doesn’t always lose. The books may take a hit on this one.
PREDICTION: Kansas 76, Baylor 67.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ryan Dickey is a full-time firefighter in Dearborn, MI, and a life-long horse racing fan. He is a handicapper and contributor to prominent horse racing Websites as well as a freelance sportswriter/photojournalist. He covers local high school sports and community events for multiple outlets, including bi-weekly newspapers and has over 200 works published to date.
Once again the owner of a race horse, Ryan is president (and currently sole member!) of Firehouse Racing Stables, LLC. This year @FirehouseRacing plans to send its first thoroughbred, That Is So Right (a 4 year old chestnut gelding), to run at tracks in Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia and, possibly, Indiana.
Having lived in Las Vegas for six years and working in the sports gaming industry, Ryan knows sports handicapping from “both sides of the counter.” Feel free to contact him on Twitter (@rdickey249) for questions, comments, criticisms, or critiques.