Baylor hasn’t yet faced Kansas at its best
With the momentous rematch between the Big 12’s two dominant teams drawing nearer by the hour, it’s important to remember that Kansas should be bringing a much different look into Round 2 with Baylor.
It was during the two teams’ first meeting on Jan. 11 that Devon Dotson suffered a hip pointer late in the first half. KU’s starting point guard and leading scorer would only play eight minutes in the second half due to the pain and clearly wasn’t himself during the 67-55 Baylor win at Allen Fieldhouse. The injury would force Dotson to miss KU’s next game, at Oklahoma three days later.
To say that Dotson’s injury altered the trajectory of the first matchup between the Jayhawks and Bears would be inaccurate. Baylor led by as many as 17 points in the first half, before Dotson got hurt, and BU took a 12-point lead into the locker room at halftime.
The hip injury did, however, keep the Jayhawks from being able to run out their best lineups as often as Bill Self would have liked against the Bears.
In recent weeks, as the Jayhawks (23-3 overall, 12-1 Big 12) have rattled off 11 consecutive wins since losing to Baylor (24-1, 13-0), Self has relied on some combination of four guards and 7-footer Udoka Azubuike to wear down lesser opponents on both ends of the court. And the best lineups, of course, always feature Dotson, KU’s fastest guard and leading scorer (17.8 points per game in Big 12 contests).
Because Dotson’s availability was altered, the Bears only saw a little more than 11 minutes of the very best units KU can put on the floor.
As Self has almost completely gone away from the two-big lineups that he even used as a starting five earlier in the season, the best combinations game in and game out have included Dotson, Marcus Garrett, Ochai Agbaji, Azubuike and either Isaiah Moss or Christian Braun.
Against Baylor, KU’s lineup of Garrett, Dotson, Moss, Agbaji and Azubuike played 8:55, outscoring the Bears, 17-14, in that time. Swap in Braun for Moss and the 1B lineup spent 2:15 on the floor, with BU holding a 7-4 advantage.
Look at those same lineups in more recent KU games and you’ll see that the Jayhawks typically get to play longer with their most effective groups than the 11:10 they had versus Baylor.
In their past five outings, the Jayhawks used their two best lineups 18:02 against Texas, 16:05 at TCU, 22:02 at West Virginia, 22:19 against Oklahoma and 14:02 versus Iowa State.
Sometimes it’s the Moss lineup that works better and other days the one with Braun does the trick. But Self always has time to figure out which one will be best for a given opponent in the flow of each game.
When its two best lineups were on the court, KU outscored Texas by 10, TCU by 9, WVU by 19, OU by 26 and ISU by 10.
Baylor is obviously better than every other Big 12 opponent on KU’s schedule. The Bears’ defense, led by Davion Mitchell, Freddie Gillespie and Mark Vital, has proven fierce in the half court, regardless of the level of competition. Much like KU, Baylor’s defense (No. 3 in adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom.com) has made it elite this season, as the Bears take a Big 12-record 23-game winning streak into Saturday’s rematch in Waco, Texas.
Dotson and Garrett will have to find the driving lanes that seem so impassable against Baylor’s perimeter defense in order for the Jayhawks to find success offensively. And every KU guard will have to be ready to knock down 3-pointers off whatever penetration and Azubuike post touches KU can muster.
With a healthy Dotson in the mix for the rematch, the Jayhawks should at least get more cracks at solving the Bears.
And they won’t be wasting any time with lineups that don’t function at all.
KU started Azubuike and David McCormack earlier in the season. That two-big look didn’t do the Jayhawks any good against Baylor.
The starting lineup of Garrett, Dotson, Agbaji, McCormack and Azubuike played two stretches against Baylor, totaling 5:20. The Jayhawks were outscored, 13-3, a virtual disaster offensively and a bad matchup defensively versus the Bears.
On Saturday, Baylor won’t see that KU lineup, but the Bears should get plenty of chances to try and prove they can stop the Jayhawks when they’re at their best.
KU’s most effective lineups
Garrett, Dotson, Moss, Agbaji, Azubuike
• vs. Baylor on Jan. 11: 8:55, outscored BU, 17-14
• vs. Texas on Feb. 4: 10:55, tied UT, 17-17
• at TCU on Feb. 8: 9:40, outscored TCU, 18-9
• at West Virginia on Feb. 13: 16:12, outscored WVU, 29-10
• vs. Oklahoma on Feb. 15: 22:19, outscored OU, 54-28
• vs. Iowa State on Feb. 18: 10:02, outscored ISU, 24-21
Garrett, Dotson, Braun, Agbaji, Azubuike
• vs. Baylor on Jan. 11: 2:15, got outscored by BU, 7-4
• vs. Texas on Feb. 4: 7:07, outscored UT, 18-8
• at TCU on Feb. 8: 6:25, tied TCU, 6-6
• at West Virginia on Feb. 13: 5:50, tied WVU, 10-10
• vs. Oklahoma on Feb. 15: did not play
• vs. Iowa State on Feb. 18: 4:00, outscored ISU, 15-7