(12) Baylor (27-6) vs. (5) Missouri (29-4)
Saturday, March 10, 6:00 p.m. (ET)
The Sports Network
By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Sprint Center (18,555) -- Kansas City, Missouri. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Baylor 14-3, Missouri 16-1. Away Record: Baylor 8-3, Missouri 7-3. Neutral Record: Baylor 5-0, Missouri 6-0. Conference Record: Baylor 12-6, Missouri 14-4. Series Record: Missouri leads, 15-10.
GAME NOTES: A pair of nationally-ranked teams are set to duke it out for the Big 12 Tournament Championship today, when the fourth-seeded Baylor Bears take on the second-seeded Missouri Tigers.
After earning the fourth-seed in a loaded Big 12, Baylor advanced to the finals after a pair of wins over Sunflower State foes, knocking off Kansas State in the quarterfinals 82-74, and upsetting top-seeded Kansas in the semifinals, 81-72. The Bears are seeking their first ever tournament championship, having lost to Missouri in its only title game appearance in 2009.
Missouri has been one of the nation's most dominant teams this season and it proved it during its tournament run. The Tigers made easy work of Oklahoma State and Texas, winning the two games by a combined 32 points. They are now 29-4, and with a win today, are likely looking at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Missouri has just one Big 12 Tournament title to its credit, that coming in 2009.
Missouri swept the regular-season series against Baylor this year and now holds a 15-10 advantage all-time.
Baylor got out to a surprising 43-35 lead at halftime and it was able to hold on for the win, dashing the hopes of many who were looking forward to another Kansas/Missouri matchup in the title game. The Bears did not have their best game shooting the ball, as they made good on 40 percent of their field goal attempts in the contest, but they took advantage of their ample opportunities at the free-throw line, knocking down 24-of-28 from the stripe. They also had six players score in double figures, led by the Perry Jones III's 18 points. Jones was also three rebounds short of his third straight double-double. BU's offense has been stellar all season, putting up 74.9 ppg on 47.3 percent from the field, both third in the Big 12. Jones has been the spark plug, leading the team in scoring (13.7 ppg) and rebounding (7.6 rpg), though he is far from a one-man team, evidenced by the production of Pierre Jackson (13.4 ppg, 5.7 apg), Quincy Acy (12.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and Quincy Miller (11.2 ppg).
Missouri's semifinal game against Texas was never in doubt, as the Tigers connected on 52.6 percent of its field goal tries, including 10-of-22 from three-point range, to pull off the 14-point victory. The Tigers were lifted to victory by a trio of fantastic performances, as Kim English and Phil Pressey each netted 23 points, while Ricardo Ratliffe tallied 18 points, 14 rebounds, and three blocks. Putting up points has not been a problem for Missouri this season, as the Tigers clearly possess the best offense in the Big 12. It has put up eye-popping numbers, ranking first in scoring (80.0 ppg), scoring margin (+14.5), free-throw percentage (.764), field goal percentage (.503), and three-point field goal percentage (.394). Marcus Denmon leads the team and is third in the conference in scoring with 17.7 ppg, while the Tigers also get ample production from English (14.5 ppg), Ratliffe (13.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg), Michael Dixon (13.3 ppg, 3.2 apg), and Phil Pressey (9.5 ppg, 6.3 apg).
While this matchup may not have been what the chalk had lined up, it is sure to be exciting nonetheless. After experiencing some hiccups a few weeks back, Baylor seems to be back in the fold as one of the nation's best teams. Still, it would be hard pressed for anyone to stop Missouri at the pace it going at. Expect the Tigers to lift the championship trophy for the second time in four years.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Missouri 82, Baylor 76
03/10 10:32:25 ET