The Baylor Bears probably don’t like the word ‘payback.’ But you can make the case that Monday night’s game with the Kansas Jayhawks holds some measure of it.
The Bears (12-0, 5-0 in Big 12) are the only remaining undefeated team in the Power 5. The Bears also coming off their stiffest test to this point in the season, a 68-60 road win at Texas Tech, a battle of Top 15 teams in which the Bears needed a surge of outside shooting to slip away.
The location of the game — Waco, Texas, and not Lawrence, Kansas — plays into the ‘payback’ theme. The last time the two teams met in Waco was Feb. 22, 2020. The Bears were in the midst of an unprecedented season. The Bears hadn’t lost a Big 12 game. The Bears were on a Big 12-record 23-game winning streak and had been the No. 1 team in the nation for eight straight games. The contest was so big ESPN brought its gameday crew to Waco and broadcast their pre-game show right before tip-off.
But, Kansas crashed the party, as it always seems to when it comes to upstart Big 12 teams. The Jayhawks were No. 3 at the time and had just one loss in Big 12 play — to Baylor. The Jayhawks rolled in and won a close one, 64-61.
Their tie at the top of the Big 12 didn’t last long. The Bears lost two of their final four games of the regular season, while Kansas won all four to win another Big 12 regular season crown.
Kansas (10-3, 4-2) comes into Monday’s game licking its wounds a bit. The Jayhawks lost to Oklahoma State. The Jayhawks missed a chance to play on Saturday when their game with Iowa State was postponed due to a COVID-19 pause in the Iowa State program. In fact, five Big 12 games were postponed last week.
The Jayhawks’ other loss in Big 12 play was to Texas, and that was the worst loss under Kansas head coach Bill Self at Allen Fieldhouse.
Self has put an emphasis on trying to get his team to shoot more 3’s and shoot a better percentage, to mixed results. The biggest news for Kansas the past two weeks has been the emergence of forward David McCormack. The junior disappeared against Texas, with 8 points and 5 rebounds in just 14 minutes in the 84-59 loss. But in his last three games McCormack has averaged 20.3 points and 7 rebounds per game.
But Ochai Agbaji is the Jayhawks’ leading scorer with 14.7 points per game. He’s also the only Jayhawk shooting better than 40 percent from behind the arc.
Baylor counters with its stable of guards, any of which is capable of going off at any time, led by Jared Butler, who is averaging 15.6 points per game. But Butler scored just 7 points against Texas Tech on Saturday. Fortunately, Davion Mitchell (19, 12.1 ppg), Adam Flagler (15, 10.6 ppg) and MaCio Teague (12, 15.3 ppg) picked up the slack.
A win for the Bears would give Baylor wins over two of the Big 12’s four ranked teams. The Bears haven’t played the other two yet, as their games with Texas and West Virginia were postponed due to COVID-19 protocols. The Bears are also going for their second win in three tries against the Jayhawks.
For Kansas, a win on Monday would erase a week’s worth of gloom from its loss to Oklahoma State and give it a win over its highest-ranked opponent this season. Kansas played No. 1 Gonzaga in the season opener, but the Jayhawks lost.
The best news for Big 12 fans is, no matter the result, the schedule says the pair will meet again in February, COVID-willing.
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