The game of the year thus far in the brutal Big 12 gauntlet — and perhaps the biggest game in the nation to date — will be played Saturday afternoon when No. 1 Baylor brings its league-record 23-game winning streak as it hosts No. 3 Kansas in Waco, Texas.
With the Jayhawks riding an 11-game winning streak of their own, something has to give. Or be taken.
A win for the Bears (24-1, 13-0) would allow them a two-game lead over Kansas in the conference standings with four games to play and their first regular-season sweep of the Jayhawks.
A Kansas victory would even up things atop the grid, return the Jayhawks (23-3, 12-1) to their usual perch and give the team some momentum for the stretch run.
The winner also could have the inside track for the overall No. 1 seed when the NCAA Tournament is revealed on Selection Sunday next month.
“(The) pressure is on us for us to go down there and perform well,” Kansas coach Bill Self told reporters. “It will be the best on-paper college basketball game of the year. (It’s) a No. 1 versus No. 3 matchup late in the season. It doesn’t mean that it will be the best game, but certainly going into it, there won’t be any better-looking game.”
Baylor is coming off a 65-54 win at Oklahoma on Tuesday. Jared Butler canned five 3-pointers and scored a game-high 22 points for the Bears while Mark Vital added 10 points and Freddie Gillespie grabbed 10 rebounds in the win.
“You don’t have a lot of opportunities to make history, and that’s what we had (against Oklahoma),” said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team broke the previous Big 12 record for longest winning streak set by the 1996-97 Kansas team.
“I didn’t even know about the streak, but you never thought something like that would be broken with the Big 12, the way it’s been the last how many years,” Drew added. “Everybody is good and everybody beats everybody.”
Baylor played without their leading scorer, MaCio Teague, who missed his second straight game with a wrist injury. Teague’s availability for Kansas will be a game-time decision.
“Coach Drew did a good job making sure we were locked in on this game,” Butler said. “And then, this game was important because it’s the longest win streak (in Big 12 history). I think that was a big thing for us and for Baylor and for just the culture and all the hard work we’ve put in. That’s why were able to lock in on this game.”
Kansas travels to central Texas on the heels of a 91-71 win at home over Iowa State on Monday. Devon Dotson poured in 29 points on 11-of-14 shooting in the victory while Ochai Agbaji added 14 points, Christian Braun and Udoka Azubuike each scored 13, and David McCormack tallied 10 for the Jayhawks.
Braun, a freshman guard, has found his shooting stroke of late, adding another weapon to the Jayhawks’ formidable arsenal.
“Yeah for sure it was good to see the shot going down,” said Braun, who hit 5 of 6 field goals. “It is a confidence thing going forward. We needed to get some momentum going into Baylor anyway, so it is a good start.”
Baylor beat the Jayhawks 67-55 on Jan. 11, its first win in vaunted Allen Fieldhouse. The Bears’ victory also snapped Kansas’ 28-game home-court winning streak and Baylor held the Jayhawks to their fewest points in a home game in 20 years.
–Field Level Media