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Bears, Jayhawks Square Off in Huge Big 12 Matchup

Top Teams in Conference Have First Meeting Of Season

The No. 8 Baylor Bears try to move into first place in the Big 12 standings when they face the No. 10 Kansas Jayhawks in a huge conference matchup on Saturday. The opening tip for this contest is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas

The Bears (19-3, 7-2 Big 12) bounced back from a loss in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge last weekend with a four-point home win over the West Virginia Mountaineers on Monday. Baylor is in second place in the conference standings, sitting a half-game behind the first-place Jayhawks and a game ahead of the third-place Texas Tech Red Raiders.

Dajuan takes a shot Baylor at Kansas Picks
David Purdy/Getty Images/AFP

Kansas (18-3, 7-1) also dropped its SEC/Big 12 Challenge contest but bounced back with a tough win over the Iowa State Cyclones on Tuesday night. The Jayhawks are 10-1 at home this season, though that lone loss came to the Kentucky Wildcats just last weekend.

The college basketball lines for this one have the Jayhawks as 2½-point favorites at home, with the over/under set at 146 points. If you want to make a moneyline bet online, Kansas is listed at -140, while Baylor is +120.

Playing Shorthanded

The Bears were able to eke out a Big 12 win on Monday against West Virginia without leading scorer LJ Cryer and third-leading scorer Adam Flagler but Baylor would really like to have them against the Jayhawks. Both are considered to be game-time decisions.

Cryer has missed the last two games with a foot injury. He’s averaging 13.9 points per game and has been the most consistent offensive performer for coach Scott Drew this season.

Flagler missed the West Virginia game with a knee injury. He is averaging 12.7 points per game as well as 3.5 assists and 1.2 steals. He and Cryer are two of the team’s better 3-point shooters, with Cryer hitting 46.7% from beyond the arc and Flagler 37.9%.

The absence of one or both of those players will put some pressure on guard James Akinjo to have a big game. Akinjo is averaging 13.6 points per game while also leading the Bears with 5.6 assists and 2.2 steals per contest. He had 25 points in Monday’s win.

Another key could be senior Matthew Mayer, who has been around for a while and has played in the raucous Allen Fieldhouse plenty. Mayer had nine late points in the win on Monday, and his play could be even more important if Cryer and/or Flagler can’t go.

Bouncing Back

The Jayhawks were also shorthanded in their win on Tuesday night, with the Big 12’s leading scorer, guard Ochai Agbaji, sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols. Agbaji, who averages 20.9 points per game, has been cleared to play against Baylor, though the Jayhawks were able to persevere without him on the road against the ranked Cyclones.

“We learned a lot about our team today,” junior guard Christian Braun said after Tuesday’s win. “We learned a lot of guys can step up. Obviously, we lost a big scorer and a great player, but we knew we could get the win.”

David McCormack had 14 points and 14 rebounds in the victory, and he’ll lead a big front line against the smaller Bears. McCormack is averaging 9.0 points and 6.8 rebounds this season.

Forward Jalen Wilson chipped in with 13 points, six rebounds, and four assists in the victory. Wilson is averaging 9.1 points and 6.8 rebounds in 2021-22.

Braun is the only other double-digit scorer for the Jayhawks. Braun is averaging 15.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 blocks, and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 50.6% from the floor.

Jayhawks Win Thriller

This game is between two of the best teams in the country, and it will be intense to start. It won’t help if Baylor is shorthanded, but even if both Flagler and Cryer are able to play, they won’t be able to overcome the Jayhawks at home.

When making your college basketball bets, take Kansas to win and cover at home.

Pick: Kansas Jayhawks -2½

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