After a fluctuating start to the season, the Kansas State men’s basketball team (3-4) faces their toughest test yet on Saturday when No. 2 Baylor (4-0) comes to town.
K-State is coming off their most well-rounded win of the season against Iowa State on Tuesday — a game they won 74-65 on the road.
Baylor rides a four-game winning streak in which they outscored opponents by a total of 108 points, a 27-point average margin. The Bears’ closest game this season came against Illinois, a game won by 13 points.
The Wildcats hope to continue to get quality minutes from freshman Davion Bradford, replacing sophomore Kaosi Ezeagu who is out due to injury. Bradford averages 14 points per game in the two games he started in.
K-State will likely stick with the same starting lineup of Bradford, sophomore DaJuan Gordon, freshman Nijel Pack, senior Mike McGuirl and freshman Selton Miguel moving forward. The Wildcat lineup proved effective in getting to the foul line against the Cyclones, but shouldn’t expect to shoot 29 freebies against this experienced and disciplined Baylor team.
The Bears are known for their defense and the numbers back that assumption up. Teams against Baylor this season shoot just 43 percent from the field and turn the ball over on 23.4 percent of their possessions. Baylor allows opponents to get to the foul line just 11.7 percent of the time.
Against their zone, teams are just 8-for-20 on the season.
In out of bounds or after timeout possessions, Baylor held opponents to 13-of-53 shooting — 24.5 percent. On sideline out of bounds plays, the Bears forced a turnover 38.5 percent of the time.
K-State will handle player of the year candidate Jared Butler who’s averaging 15.3 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. Adam Flagler averages 15.3 points on a balanced scoring roster. Five Baylor players average double-figures.
Off the bench, much like breakout K-State sophomore Carlton Linguard Jr., Baylor has Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua. Tchatchoua averages 10 points and a team-high 7.8 rebounds a contest which will be a handful for the Wildcats.
K-State needs more offensive production if they want to upset Baylor this weekend. K-State is a very good spot-up shooting team — 41 percent — but lacks in transition, post-ups and isolation attempts. For a chance against the Bears, K-State needs to hit more shots off the dribble — something they haven’t been able to do all year.
The Wildcats are 9-of-47 shooting off the dribble in half-court sets this season, which is below 20 percent.
K-State leads the all-time series between the programs 23-20, but lost two straight match-ups with Baylor including an 85-66 defeat in Waco, Texas in February. The Wildcats failed to break the 70-point mark in three-straight games with the Bears.
Tip-off is 3 p.m. Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum. The game airs on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ with radio through the K-State Sports Network.