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Sports >  NCAA basketball

He’s lost to both teams, but Kansas coach Bill Self chooses to pass on making Gonzaga-Baylor pick

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 19, 2021

Kansas coach Bill Self waves to a supporter Monday after the Jayhawks’ loss to Baylor.  (Rod Aydelotte)
Kansas coach Bill Self waves to a supporter Monday after the Jayhawks’ loss to Baylor. (Rod Aydelotte)

Kansas coach Bill Self knew the question was coming after the Jayhawks became the only team in the country that has lined up against No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 Baylor.

Self dished out heavy praise for both undefeated teams, but declined to pick when asked who would win a head-to-head meeting. He did say GU and Baylor are in a class by themselves.

“I would be shocked if there’s a third (team) that fits into that category,” Self said after his ninth-ranked squad lost to Baylor 77-69 in Waco, Texas, on Monday.

Gonzaga handled the Jayhawks 102-90 in Florida in its season opener on Thanksgiving Day. The Zags led by 14 before settling for a 54-46 lead at half. The Jayhawks tied it at 56 and trailed 72-71 before Gonzaga pulled away.

Baylor led by as many as 16 in the first half and finished well after Kansas closed within 65-60.

“We saw Gonzaga actually run it right down our throat right from the beginning,” Self said. “We saw Baylor do the same thing, so the games were actually pretty similar.

“Really, I think that was a game where Gonzaga probably beat us with all five of their guys and (Monday) let’s just give the guy credit, (Jared) Butler did a lot of that on his own.

“I don’t know which one I’d say is better. They’re both terrific.”

Butler made seven 3-pointers and scored a season-high 30 points. The Bears (13-0) and Zags (14-0) might have the best backcourts in the country.

KenPom ranks Gonzaga No. 1 overall, No. 2 in offensive efficiency and No. 13 in defensive efficiency. Baylor is No. 2, No. 4 and No. 1 in the same three categories.

KU guard Christian Braun and forward Mitch Lightfoot also declined to pick a Gonzaga-Baylor winner. A Zags-Bears showdown Dec. 5 in Indianapolis was called off due to COVID-19 concerns in Gonzaga’s program.

“Think about it, Gonzaga and Baylor one and two,” Lightfoot said. “Both those teams have great players, great coaches. You can definitely feel that they’re both top teams. They both have different strengths and weaknesses. It’s kind of hard to say which one is better.”

“They’re both really talented teams,” Braun said. “We’re not too focused on them. We’re more worried about ourselves.”

Self and his players had little reason to pick a side and issue bulletin-board material since the Jayhawks will face Baylor at least once more this season and could run into the Zags in the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga and Kansas also are expected to begin a home-and-home series beginning in December 2022 in Lawrence.

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