(4) Kansas (26-4) at Baylor (17-13)
Saturday, March 9, 6 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, College Basketball Senior Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ferrell Center (10,284) -- Waco, Texas. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Kansas 17-1, Baylor 11-5. Away Record: Kansas 7-2, Baylor 4-7. Neutral Record: Kansas 2-1, Baylor 2-1. Conference Record: Kansas 14-3, Baylor 8-9. Series Record: Kansas leads, 19-3.
GAME NOTES: The fourth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks eye up their ninth straight Big 12 title, as they take on the Baylor Bears in the regular-season finale for both squads on Saturday at the Ferrell Center.
Bill Self's Jayhawks are tied with Kansas State atop the conference standings at 14-3 and a win would give Kansas at least a share of the conference crown and the outright title if KSU falls at Oklahoma State earlier in the day. Kansas comes into this contest with a seven-game win streak, after blowing out Texas Tech on Monday, 79-42.
Scott Drew's Bears have struggled with consistency this season, sitting at 17-13 overall, but just 8-9 in league play. Baylor has struggled down the stretch. A 79-70 road loss at Texas on Monday was the second in a row and fifth setback in the last six games.
Kansas holds a 19-3 advantage in the series with Baylor all-time, including an 8-1 mark in Waco. The Jayhawks have won four of the last five meetings, and seeks the regular-season sweep after posting a 61-44 win in Lawrence on Jan. 14.
The Jayhawks made light work of the Red Raiders earlier this week, shooting a scorching 62.5 percent from the floor in the first half and taking a 25-point lead into intermission. Overall, Kansas finished the game at 53.3 percent shooting overall, while outscoring Texas Tech at the free-throw line 29-13. Jeff Withey just missed a double-double in the win with 22 points and nine rebounds. Kevin Young finished with 14 points, while Ben McLemore and Travis Releford netted 13 points apiece. Elijah Johnson added seven points to the cause, while doling out 12 assists.
The Jayhawks have performed well at both ends of the floor in this season, evidenced by their +14.6 scoring margin. KU is averaging 75.2 ppg on a healthy .476 shooting. Redshirt freshman Ben McLemore has made an immediate impact and has elevated his NBA Draft status as a projected lottery pick. McLemore is shooting over 50 percent from the floor overall, 42.5 percent from 3-point range and is netting a team-high 16.5 ppg. Withey is a perfect complement with his low post game. The 7-footer is shooting .577 overall, averaging 13.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game. Releford adds 12.2 ppg to the cause, while Johnson is both a scorer (10.2 ppg) and deft distributor (4.9 apg).
The Bears rely heavily on the scoring exploits of Pierre Jackson. The 5-foot-10 senior is only shooting .419 from the floor overall, but has netted 73 3-pointers on the year and leads the Big 12 in scoring (19.1 ppg) and assists (6.4 apg). Frontcourt balance comes in the form of Isaiah Austin (13.7 ppg, 8.9 rpg) and Cory Jefferson (11.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg), who rank second and fourth in the conference in rebounding, respectively. Junior guard Brady Heslip comes in at a modest 8.7 ppg, but remains a dangerous long-range threat with 67 3-pointers to his credit.
Pierre scored 22 points, but Baylor had a season-low 18 defensive rebounds and was outmuscled on the glass 36-29 overall by Texas. Pierre was 7-of-17 from the floor, with four 3-pointers and dished out eight assists in the loss. Austin added 15 points in defeat.
The Bears have a puncher's chance in any game with Pierre running the show. It may be a spirited crowd in Waco on Saturday, but Kansas knows how to win conference titles and should be able to earn the win here.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kansas 74, Baylor 65
03/09 10:46:59 ET