Baylor Bears vs. Kansas Jayhawks -6 — Big 12 Conference Semi-Finals
I’ll spare you some of the research. Baylor has been bad against really good teams. And they’ve been really bad against really good teams. This season against Kansas and Missouri, both Final Four contender-type teams and the top two teams in the Big 12 this season, Baylor went 0-4. Kansas beat them by 14 in Phogg and went down to Waco and beat ‘em even worse; that time by a humbling 18 points. After the first epic tussle with Missou (a loss, but thrilling they followed it up with a 15-point loss in Missouri.
In short, when the going has gotten tough, Scott Drew’s Baylor Bears have barely gotten going. Against the rest of the nation? Excellent. Baylor is 26-2. The problem for Baylor today is that this semi-final matchup isn’t against anyone else in the country. It’s against the Jayhawks and National POY co-favorite Thomas Robinson.
KU enters the game winners of nine straight and twenty of twenty two since their shocking loss to Davidson (a 14 seed you might want to watch out for next week America…). Much of KU’s success focuses on Robinson, as well it should, but the true driver of the team’s overachieving success this season is the play of senior point guard Tyshawn Taylor. Taylor always possessed the talent but he and Coach Self often didn’t see eye to eye and he never quite seemed to possess the maturity needed to lead a team as high profile as the Jayhawks. That’s the case no longer. Taylor has been excellent all season and getting even better. He’s averaged 22.3 ppg and 4 assists in his past four games, and will look to exploit the matchup with Pierre Jackson for the third time this season.
So recent performances, head-to-head matchups, nearly everything points to an easy Kansas win. But there is one factor that gives me some pause… and that’s this incredible tendency of March to wipe the slate clean and let things get back to the way they were supposed to be. Many think Cincinnati’s appearance in the Big East Final Four is a surprise – but they forget that UC was a preseason Top 25 team. Georgetown, Marquette and especially Notre Dame were all more lightly regarded back in November. It took a little while, but the talent gelled and now we are seeing the results.
I still think this same thing is possible, and likely even, with the mess of pro talent on the Baylor roster. Perry Jones III should outplay Thomas Robinson. His 31 point, 11 rebound performance yesterday was exactly the glimpse of why pro scouts STILL have him in the top 5 in most mock drafts… but it just hasn’t happened on a regular basis yet.
The nice thing about March? With one big game, all past transgressions fade into the mist. Six points is a lot to lay when the talent advantage rest with the underdog on a neutral floor. It is a bit of a leap of faith (but isn’t that why it’s called “gambling”?) but I’m taking the Bears tonight with the six points, and would be stunned if they pulled the “upset” win. After all, there were many months this season when Kansas beating Baylor would have been considered the “upset.” That’s my definition of a good value pick.
Free pick: Baylor Bears +6