Last night the Kansas Jayhawks walked in to Waco, Texas, and took pole position in the race for the Big 12 regular season title. Their 68-54 win over Baylor means that all Kansas has to do to secure their eight straight Big 12 title is win the rest of their games.
Now 9-2 in conference, Kansas will be the favorite in every game they play from now on, including February 25th against Missouri.
Now 8-3, Baylor needs a ton of help. If the Bears fall to Missouri on Saturday, it will officially become a two team race. Either way, Baylor sits without a single tiebreaker over the two teams in front of them in the standings.
Baylor started the game on a 7-0 run, including a great lob play to Perry Jones to start the night. It all went downhill from there for both Jones and the Bears. Jones was a missing man the rest of the night, struggling to set post position on offense, and once again drifting too far off the block. He finished the night with five points, three rebounds, and his only made field goal was the dunk to start the game. Pretty bad for a guy who is supposed to be the best player in the conference, or at least the most talented.
For Kansas it was all about the return of Jeff Withey. After speed basically took him out of the Missouri game, Withey looked like he was lacking confidence early in this game as well. That changed rather quickly though, and Withey finished with a career high 25 points. He was able to take advantage of the attention paid to Thomas Robinson, and slipped behind Baylor’s zone for easy layups and dunks. Withey was also 9-11 from the foul line. There is no denying that Kansas is at its best when Withey is active and involved on both offense and defense, mostly because it helps open up space for Thomas Robinson to operate.
So now we play the waiting game. The schedule sets up well for Kansas the rest of the way. If Missouri knocks off Baylor on Saturday (which seems likely), then the game on the 25th will be for the conference title. Trips to Kansas State and Oklahoma State could prove troublesome for the Jayhawks, but it seems unlikely anyone besides Missouri has a shot to beat them right now. Thomas Robinson is cruising to the National Player of the Year award (and deserves to win it over Anthony Davis if Kansas wins the Big 12), Kansas weathered the toughest part of their schedule and still emerged the favorites to win the conference. Things are looking up in Lawrence right now.
For Baylor, there is still some hope. Winning the conference is probably not going to happen, unless Kansas suffers two major slip ups, but they are still in great position to have a memorable season. A win over Missouri on Saturday would be a great confidence builder. The talent and ability are still there for a long run in the NCAA tournament, and honestly, Baylor might be built more for the NCAAs than the Big 12 grind. There aren’t going to be many teams as tough inside as Kansas, or overall as tough as Missouri, in the field of 64. Sure Baylor had a weak non-conference schedule, but they still breezed through it. It is very possible that Scott Drew still ends up in the Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight.
Kansas returns home to face Oklahoma State on Saturday, Baylor plays Missouri in Columbia.