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Men's Hoops Preview - Kansas State vs. (22/23)Baylor Bears

It's hard to bring it every game. This is one of those games where we need to bring it, especially when shots are in the air.

Wes will be key today in taking down Baylor.
Wes will be key today in taking down Baylor.
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas State Wildcats (10-7, 3-1 Big 12) wrap up their two-game homestand in the MHK today by hosting the (22/23) Baylor Bears. The Bears are coming off a pucker-factor win over Iowa State in Waco earlier this week, where Baylor had the game in control till the very end, and Iowa State mounted a furious comeback, falling just short with a Georges Niang miss at the buzzer.

K-State is coming in off a very uninspiring win at home over a hapless Texas Tech team, where the Cats kept expanding out to double-digit leads just to find the Red Raiders clawing back to within a couple buckets. Check here for a recap. Also, check out the latest Q&A sesh: Our Daily Bears questions about K-State, and Bring On The Cats questions to Baylor.

Know Your Opponent

The Baylor Bears (13-3, 2-2 Big 12) have themselves a solid basketball team this year...maybe one of my favorites outside of our beloved Wildcats. Scott Drew has put together a team mostly devoid of top-100 recruits, but they play together, and they play hard, every possession. Their recipe: defend the shot well, find easy buckets and open threes, and try to rebound every single missed shot at both ends of the floor.

Defensively, the Bears are top-50 in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (points per 100 possessions, adjusted for many factors), eFG%, 3PFG%, and Steal%, and are top-100 in just about every other quantified category.

On the offensive end of the floor, the Bears are also top-100 in 3PFG%, and their Adjusted Offensive Efficiency is nuts, at 112.7 points per 100 possessions (#19 in the country). Their only real weakness on offense is from the charity stripe, as they are collectively in the bottom third of the country in FT% (to put it in perspective, we're in the middle third...barely).

What is really impressive about Baylor, though, is when the shot goes up. Baylor is the #3 offensive rebounding team in the country, snagging back 44.1% of their misses (16.3orpg) to create extra scoring opportunities. They are also #6 in the country in overall rebounding, tallying a mind-boggling 41.4 windexes every contest. That, my friends, is crashing the glass.

Worth noting: K-State (second-to-last) and Baylor (last) are the slowest paced teams in the Big 12, and by a large margin. Both teams are sub-300 (remember, there are only 351 teams in D-I basketball) in adjusted tempo - how many possessions each team would garner against the average team.

Keep a close watch on:

Junior forward Rico Gathers, senior guard Kenny Chery, and junior forward Taurean Prince. Gathers might possibly be my favorite non-Wildcat basketball player in the country with his hardhat-and-lunchpail ethic on the floor. One of five players in the power-5 conferences averaging a double-double on the season (and the only player in the Big 12 to do so), Gathers checks in at 10.3ppg and 11.6rpg, and contributes almost 1.5 steals per game. Kenny Chery runs the show out front, adding 10.4ppg and leads the team at just over 4 assists per game. Prince actually leads the team in scoring (11.6ppg) from the bench, and is Baylor's best marksman behind the arc; he also adds in 5.5rpg, and a blocked shot and a steal per contest.

Offense/Defense Strategy:

The Baylor defense will have more of a zone slant compared to most teams K-State has played, and it's a long, athletic 1-3-1 shot-defending zone. 1-3-1 zones are typically susceptible to teams that can field a couple of big athletic forwards on the baseline, and can be broken by dribble penetration in the gaps, and having players crash the off-elbows or off-blocks to find openings when the defense collapses, or find the skip pass to open three point shooters after getting a foot in the lane. Easier said than done, as Baylor was the only team in the country to hold all their non-conference opponents under 66 points, and are currently keeping their opponents to 12.3ppg under their season averages.

K-State, of course, will be in its man defense for most of the game. We're going to need to see the defense we played against Oklahoma, and not the defense we saw against Texas Tech, to have a chance. Baylor does a fine job of getting the ball into the lane, and makes good decisions with the ball once that happens, whether it's a floater to just get the ball on the rim, or dump off to a post player left open by help defense, or kicking out for a three. We're also going to have to be much more diligent on finding players and blocking out when shots go up, with Baylor's propensity for offensive rebounding.

Probable Starters

Kansas State Wildcats:

Nino Williams, 6-5 220 Sr
Thomas Gipson, 6-7 265 Sr
Wesley Iwundu, 6-7 205 So
Marcus Foster, 6-3 210 So
Jevon Thomas, 6-0 185 So

Baylor Bears:

F Johnathan Motley, 6-9 230 RS-Fr
F Royce O'Neale, 6-6 215 Sr
F Rico Gathers, 6-8 275 Jr
G Kenny Chery, 5-11 180 Sr
G Lester Medford, 5-10 175 Jr

3 Keys To The Game

1. Board Room

Rebounding is usually important in any game of basketball. Today, rebounding is absolutely critical. We need to keep them from getting second chances as much as possible, and get as many second chances as we can. I don't expect to win the rebounding stats today, but if we aren't within 10 rebounds of Baylor at the end of the day, I doubt we're on the winning end of the game. This doesn't just fall on Gip and Hurt; Justin Edwards, Wes, and Malek Harris will absolutely be lynchpins in keeping Baylor off the glass.

2. Don't Beat Ourselves

Baylor doesn't need any help. K-State needs to keep turnovers at 12 or less for the game; free possessions to the Bears will lead to some easy points on their side. We also need to work the ball methodically on offense to find good shots against their zone, and not fall in love with the first three we find. And I'll say it again - rebounding, particularly on the defensive end. We can control that backboard, and we need to in order to have a shot at the win.

3. Speed Up

Baylor doesn't like to play fast, and they send all five to crash the glass on every possession. We need to get out in transition as much as we can to get in front of the defense and take advantage of numbers. Look for Bruce to be encouraging begging Jevon, Nigel, and whoever else may bring the ball up the floor to really push the pace today. I'd like to see us in the 75 possession range, and get 60 shots up on the rim.

All stats by, or by the respective university's sports information.