WACO, Texas -- College basketball history was made back in November when the top four teams in the AP Top 25 played against each other in the same building and on the same night.You remember don't you?
The Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden featured near-consensus preseason No. 1 Michigan State playing No. 2 Kentucky. The lead-in was No. 3 Kansas vs. No. 4 Duke. Kentucky went on to pull off a surprisingly clear win over MSU, and Duke upset Kansas.
Until the Champions Classic that had never happened before in the history of the sport.
Fast-forward to now. we are nearly 17 weeks through college hoops' season, and here's how each has traversed:
Michigan State is no longer ranked and has nine losses.
Kentucky is No. 10, a 20-5 record.
Kansas is the No. 3 team, sitting at 23-3.
Duke is 22-4, ranked sixth, and lost on Wednesday night to NC State.
It seems like such a long time ago. At least Kansas has mostly held up its part of the deal. And here and now, in the throes of February, this Saturday's noon ET tip between No. 1 Baylor and No. 3 Kansas takes the title of the most anticipated/hyped/biggest game of the season. As it should. Baylor -- nowhere near the top 10 three months ago -- becomes the unlikely host to this event. But that makes it all the more intriguing. The winner of Saturday's huge head-to-head will have a stranglehold on a No. 1 seed going forward. The loser could even still wind up on a top line come Selection Sunday.
Waco is buzzing over its biggest home game in history.
Kansas: The Jayhawks are looking to avoid a season sweep at the hands of Baylor for the first time in program history. (Not just that: Oklahoma State is the only Big 12 team to sweep the Jayhawks under Bill Self.) The Jayhawks come in on an 11-game winning streak, the last loss coming to none other than Baylor.
Kansas boasts the second-best résumé in college basketball and so what's at stake? A win would bump up KU to 24-3, give the Big 12 a tie atop the standings between the Jayhawks and Bears, and would give Kansas a claim to the best profile in the sport. KU and Baylor each have 10 Quad 1 wins, tied for most in college basketball.
Keep an eye on Devon Dotson. The Jayhawks' sophomore point guard is the No. 1 player in the sport, per Ken Pomeroy's tempo-free player of the year ratings system. KU center Udoka Azubuike ranks eighth. The Jayhawks have the best inside-out combo in college basketball. After winning the Big 12 for 14 consecutive seasons, Kansas' streak was snapped by Kansas State and Texas Tech in 2019.
Baylor can almost for sure keep KU off the top line of the standings with a 24th straight win on Saturday.
Baylor: The Bears' 23-game win streak is the longest by any Big 12 team going back to when the Big 8 morphed into the Big 12 in the mid-1990s. With five regular-season games remaining, Scott Drew has already coached BU to a program-record 13 league wins this season, and this 13-game winning streak in conference play is the best the men's program has pulled off in its history.
There are so many storylines and great stats with this team. Six wins against ranked competition is best in college hoops. It's held eight of its Big 12 foes to 55 or fewer points this season, which has helped Baylor get to No. 3 in defensive efficiency. Arizona (58), Butler (52), Texas (44), Texas Tech (52) and Kansas (55) have all been held to season-lows because they played Baylor.
But keep an eye on MaCio Teague. He was a participating in practice but his availability for Saturday's game is still officially being ruled a game-time decision. Teague hurt his wrist in Baylor's 52-45 win at Texas on Jan. 10. Having him in the lineup will go a long way; he was Baylor's leading scorer in Big 12 play before missing the past two games due to wrist pain. Baylor may need him in order to beat Kansas. That said, Mark Vital and Davion Mitchell are outstanding defenders who go a long way to making sure Baylor does not need one player to have an outrageously good game in order to beat top-level competition.
When: Saturday, Feb. 22, Noon ET
Where: Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas
TV: ESPN | Live stream: WatchESPN
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Game prediction, picks
The spread is understandably close because we've got two top-three defenses, neither team playing above the national average in possessions per game. Here's a nugget to consider: Baylor has not been behind by more than two points at any point in any home game this season, and in fact Baylor has only been behind in the second half in one game since December. Historically, Kansas owns BU. It's a 32-6 all time edge. But some of these players beat Kansas in Baylor just two years ago. And of course the road win earlier this season is a huge confidence-builder. It's a very tough call, which is how it should be for a very good game. Not knowing the status on Teague, knowing how tough it is to beat Bill Self twice in the same season, I'll cautiously go with the team that rates No. 1 in efficiency margin in college basketball. Pick: KANSAS +1.5