Call me crazy, but I think the Tigers have a shot to win in Waco. With both teams sitting at 17-1 overall and 4-1 in the big 12, a lot is at stake in this highly anticipated match-up.
The Baylor Bears have been playing amazing basketball this season, but if the Jayhawks taught us anything a few days ago, it’s that they’re not unstoppable. Kansas was able to thump the Bears because of two things: great shooting, a high point total, and a hell of a show by Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson. Luckily, the Tigers excel in these areas.
Kansas shot 57% from the floor. Luckily, the Tigers are second in the nation averaging a 50% field goal percentage. Senior guard Kim English’s three-point percentage even eclipses that with an astounding 51.1%. The Tigers depend on their ability to shoot the basketball more than anything else. If English, Denmon, the Pressey brothers, and Mike Dixon are hot, watch out.
It’s not like Kansas played great defense either. The Bears scored 74 points against the Jayhawks, only three under their season average. Quincy Acy and Perry Jones also met their season averages, scoring in double digits and snatching a significant amount of boards off of the glass. The difference was, simply, Kansas outscored them. Missouri has a chance at this kind of win as well. The Tigers are fourth in the nation is points per game with 83, which shows that if the Tigers can keep the Bears at their average scoring rate, they have a legitimate shot at a W.
The last aspect of the game, which is what separates good teams from great ones, was outstanding play by the team leaders. Thomas Robinson was a man among boys with his 27 points and 14 rebounds, completely dominating the paint throughout the course of the game. Tyshawn Taylor, who has been of a bit of a disappointment this season, also gave the Jayhawks a boost. His 28 points and 6 assists broke the spirit of the Bears, and they were never able to recover from the 10-point deficit at half time.
If Missouri wants to win, a few players need to have an outstanding game: Missouri senior forward Ricardo Ratliffe has flown under the radar this season. What most people don’t know is that his 77.4 field goal percentage is the highest in the country. For the Tigers to compete against Baylor’s 6-11 giant Perry Jones, Ratliffe needs to be outstanding in the post. But Jones isn’t Baylor’s only threat. 6-7 forward Quincy Acy is right behind Jones in rebounding and scoring. Because of these dual big-man threats, Missouri might have to run Steve Moore and Ratliffe on the court at the same time. While the Tigers have done this before, it detracts from the run-and-gun offense their guards are best at.
The guards are also crucial. Seniors Kim English and Marcus Denmon must shoot over 50% from behind the arc. If guard Phil Pressey can create opportunities in transition, he can have a lasting impact on the game as well. This matchup should be a thriller. It’s for second place in the conference, a very high ranking in the country, and respect at the national level. For each side to win, the Bears must capitalize on the Tigers weaknesses in the paint, and the Tigers have to shoot the lights out in Waco. This is what Big 12 basketball is all about.