Here is everything you need to know about the Baylor Bears and the Kansas Jayhawks in our Baylor vs. Kansas Big 12 men’s basketball preview.
3 p.m. Central Time, Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kansas.
Records: Baylor: 19-3 (7-2); Kansas: 18-3 (7-1 in Big 12);
Ranking: Baylor: No. 8 (Associated Press); Kansas: No. 10 (Associated Press).
Previous meeting: First meeting this season.
G James Akinjo: With both LJ Cryer and Adam Flagler out of the lineup against West Virginia, the Bears leaned heavily on Akinjo, and he didn’t disappoint. He scored a team-high 25 points, helping the Bears withstand a great second half from the Mountaineers. For the season, Akinjo averages 13.6 points and more than five assists per game. He’s shown that he can score in bunches and make other players better.
F Kendall Brown: Brown remains on the Top 10 list for the nation’s award for best small forward, and some NBA scouts say he has the game NOW to make the jump to the NBA. The forward averages 10 points and 4.7 rebounds per game and plays the kind of in-your-face defense that Bears head coach Scott Drew demands. He doesn’t shoot many threes, but he makes them one-third of the time, so you can’t let him get lost on the perimeter.
F Matthew Mayer: At first glance, it looks like Mayer has regressed a bit, as he averages 9.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. But, the fact is that his experience and basketball savvy are his best assets for a team that is blending experience with veteran transfers and a couple of top freshmen. Mayer had nine points and seven rebounds against West Virginia, but he made two or three plays in that game that reminded you just have valuable he is to Baylor.
G Ochai Agbaji: The first question is will he play? Kansas head coach Bill Self was “optimistic and hopeful” that Agbaji could play in this game after sitting out Tuesday’s game due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols. The Jayhawks made it work without him against Iowa State, but it will be a much harder road against Baylor if he can’t play. He leads the Big 12 with 20.9 points per game and makes 46.4 percent of his 3-pointers.
F David McCormack: So, Self goes on the record after the loss to Kentucky and says that McCormack won’t be 100 percent the rest of the season. Then, McCormack goes out against Iowa State, without Agbaji in the lineup, and puts up a double-double — 14 points and 14 rebounds. That’s the maddening inconsistency of McCormack’s season. But, knowing that the foot surgery he had in late March is what’s bothering him, at least we know there’s a reason.
G Dajuan Harris Jr.: The sophomore’s game continues to grow, and without Agbaji and Remy Martin, Harris was a key part of Kansas overcoming Iowa State on Tuesday. Harris scored 14 points in the game, along with eight assists. He started the season as a solid defender and a good facilitator of the offense. Now, his offense has caught up with those skills and, in some ways, he is Kansas’ most reliable player.
There is quite a bit up in the air right now with LJ Cryer and Adam Flagler out of the lineup. It sounds like Cryer’s injury is more about managing the soreness from a previous surgery, but he’s now missed a few games. If neither play, the Bears are thin at guard, with just two scholarship guards. Dale Bonner, the Division II transfer from Fairmont State, didn’t score much against West Virginia, but he did play a good overall game in his first Division I start. The Bears had to go big in that game, and they may have to do the same thing against Kansas. That means more Kendall Brown and Jeremy Sochan on the perimeter, and more use of Matthew Mayer as a ball handler in offensive sets in an effort to give James Akinjo chances to operate and create space off the ball.
Kansas is sort of in the same boat, though there is certainly a chance that Ochai Agbaji could be back on Saturday. But guard Remy Martin is out, and he’s been staggered for a month with an injury he suffered in early January. Head coach Bill Self said they’re sitting Martin for a bit for the same reasons that Cryer is sitting — trying to manage Martin’s soreness. The Jayhawks have more depth at guard to live without Agbaji and Martin for another game, if need be. These injuries come at a time where Kansas has a real opportunity to take control of the Big 12 race. A win over Baylor would put the Jayhawks two games up on the field with half the conference schedule remaining. Crazily, Kansas is trying to win just its second regular-season title in four years.
Kansas has lost 16 home games in 19 seasons under Bill Self. Baylor is one of the teams to win a game at Allen Fieldhouse, coming in 2020. Meanwhile, Baylor carries a nine-game winning streak against Top 10 teams into Saturday’s game.
Kansas 77, Baylor 70. A prediction is hard because it’s not clear whether any of the injured players will be back for Saturday. So, let’s assume none return. Kansas is the deeper team and that depth will eventually wear Baylor down.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.