Upcoming Match-ups

Baylor Hasn’t Lost in Over Three Months, But Bears’ National Title Odds Have Dropped Behind Kansas

Blair Johnson

by Blair Johnson in College Basketball

Updated Apr 2, 2020 · 1:24 PM PDT

Baylor basketball jersey closeup
Top-ranked Baylor has worse national championship odds than Kansas, a team it already beat on the road. Blair Johnson investigates why. Photo by Kelby Wingert, III Corps and Fort Hood Public Affairs.
  • Baylor hasn’t lost since Nov. 8, but its odds to win the NCAA Tournament (+815) have fallen behind Big 12 rival Kansas (+675)
  • The Bears have won 23 straight — breaking the 1996-97 Jayhawks’ old conference record
  • The teams play each other Saturday in Waco, and the winner will likely see their odds improve

The Baylor Bears (24-1, 13-0 Big 12) have only lost one game all season. That was back on Nov. 8 against Washington. Scott Drew’s team has won 23 straight since that narrow 67-64 defeat, a new record for the Big 12 (surpassing the old mark of 22 in a row set by the 1996-97 Kansas squad).

Yet, the Bears have actually fallen behind this year’s Jayhawks (23-3, 12-1 Big 12) in the average March Madness odds (+800 vs. +700), and the discrepancy is even greater ahead of their pivotal clash this Saturday in Waco (12:00 PM ET, Feb. 22nd, at the Ferrell Center).

2020 NCAA Championship Odds

Team National Championship Odds
Gonzaga +575
Kansas +675
Baylor +815
Duke +875
Maryland +1217
San Diego State +1302
Dayton +1488
Louisville +1845
Kentucky +1904
Seton Hall +2155
Florida State +2256
Michigan State +2256
Auburn +2407
Villanova +3011
Oregon +3314

Odds taken Feb. 20 

Why is Baylor trailing the Jayhawks in the Big Dance odds? After all, the Bears handled the Jayhawks in Lawrence 67-55 on Jan. 11. Is it simply tournament history? Or do oddsmakers know something we don’t? We investigate this peculiar matter further and explain.

Jayhawks Are Statistically Better

Baylor handled Kansas with relative ease at Allen Fieldhouse last month.

YouTube video

But even with that head-to-head loss, Kansas is statistically better than Baylor according to KenPom. The Jayhawks have the highest adjusted efficiency margin in all of college basketball (+31.02 vs. Baylor’s +27.47 — which is tied with Gonzaga at for no. 2 on the website). This stat represents the number of points a team would be expected to outscore the average D-I team over 100 possessions.

The Jayhawks are also rated higher (no. 10 vs. no. 23) than Baylor in offensive efficiency and only slightly behind (no. 3 vs. no. 2) in defensive efficiency.

This is certainly part of the reasons why Kansas has shorter odds than Baylor to cut down the nets in Atlanta — they’re the most efficient team in college hoops.

The Dotson Effect

Another reason why Baylor trails Kansas in the 2020 title odds – even though the Bears have been the clear-cut most dominant team this season — is injuries.

Going back to that game in January, speedy point guard Devon Dotson suffered a hip pointer late in the first half of that fateful matchup. He tried to play in the second half, but he was clearly not 100-percent. If his performance in Monday’s 91-71 victory over Iowa State is any indication, Dotson is ready for the Baylor rematch.

YouTube video

He scored 29 points on 11-of-14 shooting and, more importantly, shows no signs of the lower body issues that plagued him earlier this season. He’s leading the Big 12 in scoring at 18.4 points per game and his outing on Monday inspired ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla to say this: “There’s about four or five guys that need to be considered for national player of the year. Throw this guy in the mix.”

With Dotson back to his explosive self, Kansas has justifiably shorter title odds than Baylor.

Public Sentiment

All that said, I believe the biggest reason why Baylor is being disrespected in the odds comes down to public sentiment. San Diego State is battling the same issue this season. And Gonzaga and Virginia battled the same issue for years until finally breaking through and reaching Final Fours.

Until a team proves it can win in the tournament — like the Jayhawks have and the Bears haven’t — they’re going to face longer odds.

And if Kansas avenges that loss last month this Saturday in Texas, rest assured, Baylor’s odds will drop even further.

Author Image