#6 Baylor vs. #10 Kansas: Wednesday's Preview

    
February 7th, 2012
To say that this is a big week for Scott Drew's Baylor (21-2, 8-2) Bears would be a major understatement, and the same goes for the Kansas (18-5, 8-2) Jayhawks in this pivotal Big 12 battle. These are two of the three teams tied for first in the loss column in the conference, and with Baylor visiting 9-2 Missouri on Saturday afternoon we should have a solid grasp on who will be in the driver's seat down the stretch.

Kansas won the first meeting 92-74 in Lawrence, pulling away during the latter stages of the first half thanks in large part to the play of forward Thomas Robinson and point guard Tyshawn Taylor. Robinson (18.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg) posted his customary double-double on a night that saw the Bears punished for their inability to box out. Baylor only plays their troublesome 2-3 zone about half the time, so this was an issue more about fundamentals than their system having them out of place.

On the season Baylor's opponents average 12.4 offensive rebounds per game, and while the offensive rebounding percentage (32.8%) isn't terrible it's not what you'd expect of a team with five players 6'9" or taller. Three of those players are averaging double figures in scoring with sophomore Perry Jones III (14.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg) leading the way. Freshman Quincy Miller (12.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg) is arguably their most versatile front court player while senior Quincy Acy (12.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg) provides the heart, as he's made some big plays in "winning time" for the Bears.

The key for Kansas in the rematch will be to get a similar effort from Jeff Withey (8.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.0 bpg) as they received in the first contest. The San Diego native was two blocks away from a triple-double, a fact that left many observers stunned by the end of the night. This is a better matchup for Withey than Missouri, whose quickness rendered him nearly non-existent on Saturday night. While both teams are good on the offensive glass Kansas has been better keeping opponents at bay on the other end (28.1% OR), and doing so once again will be important if they're to win in Waco.

The point guard matchup is an intriguing one due to the fact that both Taylor (16.9 ppg, 5.2 apg) and Baylor's Pierre Jackson (12.7 ppg, 5.9 apg) are both two of the best in the Big 12, but they also have moments when their respective coaches wonder what's going on. Turnovers will be key for both teams, especially those of the "live-ball" variety as both teams have some of the nation's best finishers.

Jackson won't start the game (A.J. Walton does) but more often than not he finishes it, and shooting free throws at an 84% clip should leave Baylor fans at ease when he's in control late. Baylor also calls on Brady Heslip (9.6 ppg, 43.9% 3PT) on the perimeter while Kansas will counter with Elijah Johnson (9.2 ppg, 3.6 apg) and Travis Releford (9.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg). There isn't much separating the two teams when looking at turnover percentage on either side of the ball, and despite having a slightly higher percentage (21.5%) it's Baylor who's been the more efficient team offensively.

Did Allen Fieldhouse have that much of an impact on Baylor in the first meeting, or was Kansas simply that much better? The rematch won't provide a definitive answer to that question (which is probably an unfair one to ask anyway), but it will give an answer to the question of which team is better equipped to win the Big 12.

Two of the sport's biggest rivalries will also be on display as #2 Syracuse hosts #11 Georgetown and #9 Duke makes the short trek to Chapel Hill to take on #5 North Carolina. The Orange had it rolling on Saturday afternoon as they pasted an undermanned St. John's team and the return of Fab Melo did play a role in that. But the Hoyas also have a much-improved center in senior Henry Sims, and a perimeter led by Jason Clark and Hollis Thompson should be good about finding quality shots within Syracuse's 2-3 zone. Georgetown has to also find a way to limit the impact that reserves such as Dion Waiters and C.J. Fair have on the game, meaning that they have to keep the game from turning into an odd-man track meet.

As for Duke, they've got a tough assignment as they look to not only bounce back from a disappointing loss to Miami but also keep from falling two games behind UNC and Florida State in the ACC. The Blue Devils had no answer for Miami's Reggie Johnson (Kenny Kadji also played well), and while neither John Henson nor Tyler Zeller is as wide as Johnson they're both more than a handful for opponents. Duke has to get good decision-making from their guards (Austin Rivers, Seth Curry and Quinn Cook being three) at the Dean Dome and some good shooting from Andre Dawkins wouldn't hurt either.

Marshall, who at one point earlier this season looked to be a lock to reach the Field of 68, needs to get rolling in a hurry if they're to get back into the discussion. DeAndre Kane and company visit a UCF team led by forward Keith Clanton in what should be a good Conference USA matchup. Wichita State can take sole possession of first place in the Missouri Valley with a win over Northern Iowa ahead of their trip to Omaha on Saturday, and the contest between borough rivals LIU Brooklyn and St. Francis (NY) has been made even better by the fact that they're playing at Madison Square Garden and Glen Braica's done an outstanding job with the Terriers as well.

Top 25 Games
7:00 PM (11) Georgetown at (2) Syracuse (ESPN)
9:00 PM (9) Duke at (5) North Carolina (ESPN)
7:00 PM (10) Kansas at (6) Baylor (ESPN2)
6:30 PM Penn State at (12) Michigan State (BTN)
7:00 PM (17) Florida State at Boston College (ESPN3)
7:30 PM Wake Forest at (20) Virginia (ESPN3)
8:30 PM (25) Michigan at Nebraska (BTN)

NCAA Division I Games
6:00 PM George Washington at Temple
7:00 PM UNC Wilmington at Delaware
7:00 PM Pittsburgh at South Florida (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Wagner at Mount St. Mary's
7:00 PM Memphis at East Carolina
7:00 PM Monmouth at Fairleigh Dickinson (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Drexel at James Madison
7:00 PM La Salle at Richmond
7:00 PM Lafayette at Army
7:00 PM Bowling Green at Ball State
7:00 PM Marshall at UCF
7:00 PM Buffalo at Central Michigan
7:00 PM Bucknell at Colgate
7:00 PM Kent State at Eastern Michigan
7:00 PM Hofstra at George Mason (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Northeastern at Georgia State
7:00 PM Jacksonville State at Morehead State
7:00 PM Holy Cross at Navy
7:00 PM Central Connecticut State at Quinnipiac
7:00 PM Bryant University at Sacred Heart
7:00 PM Robert Morris at St. Francis (PA)
7:00 PM Cincinnati at St. John's
7:00 PM Ohio at Toledo
7:00 PM Akron at Western Michigan (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Old Dominion at William & Mary
7:00 PM Rhode Island at Xavier (CBS SN)
7:05 PM Houston Baptist at Bethune-Cookman
7:30 PM St. Bonaventure at Massachusetts
7:30 PM Towson at VCU (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Southern Miss at UAB
8:00 PM Arkansas at Georgia (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Indiana State at Bradley
8:00 PM Missouri State at Southern Illinois (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Rice at Houston
8:00 PM Cal State Bakersfield at Texas-Pan American
8:00 PM Central Arkansas at Texas State
8:00 PM Northwestern State at Lamar
8:00 PM Miami (OH) at Northern Illinois
8:00 PM Texas-Arlington at Sam Houston State (ESPN3)
8:00 PM TCU at Southern Methodist
8:00 PM Nicholls State at Stephen F. Austin
8:00 PM South Carolina at Tennessee (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Southeastern Louisiana at UTSA
8:00 PM Northern Iowa at Wichita State (ESPN3)
8:05 PM Drake at Illinois State
8:30 PM Saint Louis at Saint Joseph's
9:00 PM Seton Hall at Rutgers (ESPN2)
9:00 PM LSU at Vanderbilt (ESPN3)
9:00 PM Notre Dame at West Virginia
9:00 PM LIU Brooklyn at St. Francis (NY)
9:00 PM Tulsa at UTEP (CBS SN)