No. 2 Baylor looks to stay unbeaten at No. 17 Kansas
Baylor officially has achieved its best start in history, though the No. 2 Bears also have a clear understanding of their vulnerabilities.
As his team carries an 18-0 record into Saturday's matchup against No. 17 Kansas (17-8, 11-6 Big 12) in Lawrence, Kan., coach Scott Drew related the pressure that mounts when the 10-0 leader in the Big 12 dwells on broader goals.
"Right now, every team wants to win the next game," Drew said. "To say we want to win one more, two more, three more, we're really focused each and every game on finding a way to go 1-0. If we do that, that's how you get to the top of the mountain."
Drew made that comment Tuesday after the Bears ended a three-week stoppage created by developments related to COVID-19 as well as inclement weather in Texas. They overcame a 17-point deficit to nip last-place Iowa State, 77-72.
Although Baylor will not come close to completing its conference schedule, it needs to win just one of its last four games to clinch its first Big 12 regular-season championship.
"We've seen two things that are supposedly once every 100 years," Drew said, referencing the coronavirus pandemic and the arctic conditions. "Hopefully, this is a once in a 100-type season that happens a lot more after this. I think our guys have been really positive all year long and controlled what they can control."
Against Iowa State, Adam Flagler scored 22 points to lead the Bears once they found their dazzling offensive might, which fuels a 23.1-point average margin of victory that ranks second nationally behind Gonzaga. Jared Butler (17.1) and MaCio Teague (14.7) both rank among the Big 12's top 10 scorers.
The rematch against Baylor, which won the first meeting, 77-69, on Jan. 18, will make Kansas the first team to complete its regular-season Big 12 schedule.
The conference is using next week as a makeup opportunity for postponements, creating a hectic finish for Baylor, while Kansas used its down time to schedule a home game March 4 against UTEP.
Yet, even with the extra home game the Jayhawks still decided to designate Saturday night's Big 12 finale with playing Baylor as Senior Night, which places their string of Senior Night victories in harm's way. The Jayhawks have won every one of their Senior Night games since the tradition was launched in 1984.
Nonetheless, Baylor can join Texas, a 75-72 overtime winner over Kansas on Tuesday, as teams to sweep the Jayhawks this season in a Big 12 home-and-home series. Only one conference rival had managed a season sweep in Bill Self's previous 17 seasons coaching Kansas.
"The bottom line," Self said, "is when some teams are playing 14 (league games) and some teams are playing 18 and other teams are playing 16 and not everybody is playing (each other) twice, we knew going into the year we were playing for seed for the NCAA Tournament, not the Big 12 Tournament."
Jalen Wilson, a freshman who started hot, then tailed off, is again a key contributor for the Jayhawks with six double-doubles in his last seven games. Balance has contributed to Kansas placing five scorers in double figures in each of its last two games and six times this season as Self whittles his rotation.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 27, 2021