We notched our second straight easy college basketball winner last night with the Orange failing to cover. Not that they were ever in real danger of falling from the ranks of the unbeaten, but as predicted, lacked a little of the crispness and energy to fully put away a good-shooting and desperate Notre Dame team. Alas, a win is a win is a win, especially in ACC play, and the Cuse have all but locked up a #1 seed in March and are now focusing in on loftier goals.
However, the most recent “best game ever” happened in Stillwater last night with Iowa State beating the Cowboys 98-97 in triple overtime. The win more than stabilizes Iowa State, but drops preseason co-favorite Oklahoma State to just 4-5 in Big Twelve play. So is their reason to panic in Cowboy country? My inclination is ‘no’ – a triple overtime loss to Iowa State is no shame. But they have lost three in a row, four of five and are just 4-5 overall since the loss of underrated glue-guy Michael Cobbins. I don’t think they spiral out of control, but Final Four dreams seem a bit over-ambitious at this point.
Speaking on ‘panic-time’ in the Big 12, has anyone in the country had a bigger EXHALE win this season than Baylor’s five-game skid-snapping 76-70 win this weekend at the aforementioned Okie State? At one time the Bears were ranked in the Top 10. As of Friday they were 1-6 in Big 12 play and NO reasonable projection could have them getting a big to the tourney. What a difference in perception a few days makes…
Can they keep it up tonight hosting the mighty Jayhawks? Let’s dig inside tonight’s free pick.
Today’s Free Pick:
Kansas Jayhawks -3.5 at Baylor Bears
This game means a TON to Baylor. It is a chance to salvage their season and get back on an NCAA Tourney trajectory. Five days ago, before Kansas’s humbling loss to Texas and Baylor in the midst of a freefall, this would likely have been a seven or eight point line. However, Saturday apparently altered Vegas’s perception of these two teams.
I’m not sure I’m so easily swayed. Yes, Kansas got punked in Austin. Wiggins looked terrible. Embiid looked average and Texas really took it to the Jayhawks. Yes, Baylor got a nice win on the road in Stillwater. But the Cowboys are just 1-4 over their last five conference games.
So perhaps we need to take a deep breath and look at these two teams beyond just two days ago. Kansas is otherwise perfect in Big 12 play and have not lost back-to-back conference games in a long time. They have 8 wins this season against top-30 RPI teams and have not lost a single game to a team OUTSIDE the Top 30. They are shooting a league best 51% from the floor and have four future first round NBA players.
Baylor, before Saturday, had lost six of their last seven games and were in last place in the conference. Tonight, they will try to knock off back-to-back ranked opponents for the first time since… NEVER. Suffice it to say, playing in the Big 12, they’ve had more than a few chances to accomplish that feat.
I got burnt backing the Jayhawks last weekend in Texas, but I still stand by the fact that this is one of the best teams in the country. They are dominating the best or second-best (depending on your view of the Big Ten) conference in the country. One road loss to a rival doesn’t negate all the dominance they’ve displayed the last four weeks. For good measure, Baylor is just 5-9-1 ATS this season.
Give me the Jayhawks on the road reasserting their conference stranglehold.