A few weeks ago at Allen Fieldhouse, the Kansas Jayhawks made a loud statement. Their 92-74 win over previously unbeaten Baylor reminded the Big 12 who was boss. Since then, Missouri has taken charge of the conference race, with wins over both Kansas and Baylor, but tonight’s rematch in Waco will set one team up to take down the Tigers.
A Kansas win would give the Jayhawks the final tiebreaker over Baylor, and set them up well against Missouri as well, since the Tigers have to go to Lawrence in two weeks. A Baylor win sets them up to take complete control of the conference Saturday afternoon in Columbia.
Obviously, this game is important, which is why Perry Jones needs to show up tonight and play the best game of his season. In their first game, Jones reduced himself to a jump shooter, while Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey dominated inside. Jones remains the most talented player on the court nearly every night he plays (the exception probably being a hypothetical game against Kentucky). He doesn’t act like it though. Instead of attacking the basket and going hard after rebounds, Jones seems to take himself out of the game. Patrolling the outside and taking jumpers, leaving the hard inside work to Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller.
Like it or not, Jones and Thomas Robinson will be compared to one another all night long. On the surface, the comparison makes sense, as both are lottery bound big men who lead top 10 teams. In reality though, they couldn’t be more different. Robinson loves playing inside, thrives on contact, and just happens to have a decent outside shot. Jones relies on his shot first, and only drifts inside in the open court, or when set up by his teammates. If Jones can flip that script tonight, Baylor is going to have an excellent chance to win.
Kansas will continue to sink or swim with Tyshawn Taylor, who has been playing very well in conference play. He suffered a one man mental breakdown at the end of the Missouri game though, so it will be interesting to see how he responds. In years past, odds are Taylor would let his struggles carry over, should be interesting to see how much he’s matured. Also in need to a reclamation game, Jeff Withey. Previously the Jayhawk’s secret weapon, Withey was completely useless against Missouri. Against Baylor, Withey will be playing against guys more his size, which should be a breath of fresh air. He pushed around the soft Baylor front line two weeks ago, and Bill Self is going to need him to do it against tonight.
Scott Drew is going to want to get Quincy Miller back on track, Miller has scored double-digit points just one time in the last two weeks. As long as Perry Jones continues to pussyfoot around the court, Miller has to be the Bear’s best player. He showed the ability to do it while Jones was suspended, and has shown flashes since. This would be a good night for him to get back on track.
Most important for Baylor, setting their defense from the start. Kansas shredded Drew’s zone early in the last game, and it proved useless. If Baylor starts in man defense from the start, and Drew keeps it going the whole game, they will have already improved their chances to win.
The game is in Waco, the Bears have revenge on their minds, and Kansas is coming off a tough, draining loss to their biggest rival. Still, Thomas Robinson is a monster inside, and nobody on Baylor seems willing to trade blows with him. I think Kansas gets the win, and sets up a conference title showdown with Missouri in two weeks.
Kansas 78 Baylor 69