Big 12 Tournament Preview - Semifinals Update

Perry Jones and the Bears take on the Kansas Jayhawks later tonight in Big 12 Tournament semifinal action. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-US PRESSWIRE

With only one game so far that has been moderately close in the closing minutes, the Big 12 tournament so far has been a bit boring. Six games down, with just 2 of the lower seeded teams winning, this has also been a predictable tournament. However, we have two more games tonight, featuring 3 of the best teams in the country and one that is trying to secure life off of the bubble. Let's take a look at both of the games tonight, starting with the back end of the double header, Texas and Missouri.

Game 8: #6 Texas Longhorns vs #2 Missouri Tigers

Friday @ 9pm - ESPNU/Big 12 Network

Missouri swept Texas 2-0

Texas might have secured their post-season spot in the NCAA tournament with their win over Iowa State. The Cyclones didn't really seem to be very involved in the game, and their 13 turnovers attest to that. They actually did a better job in the 2nd half as they had 9 going into the break. Texas shot poorly in this game, making only 36.8% of their shots, but used a 24-9 edge in Free Throw Attempts to earn 10 more points than the Cyclones at the line.

Missouri easily rolled up on Oklahoma State. I missed most of this game, but it was a very convincing win for the Tigers on paper. The Tigers won both of the previous games with Texas, though the contest in Austin was a tight game decided by a late Michael Dixon layup gave Missouri a 1-point win. However, both of these games were before the calendar rolled over to February, so it has been over a month since these teams have seen each other.

Texas has been a better team the past month of the season, but I just don't see them bringing enough firepower to beat a very motivated Tigers squad in their last Big 12 Tournament appearance. Outside of J'Covan Brown, the Longhorns have really struggled to score, and unless they shoot 55% or greater, I just don't see them winning this game without a collapse by the Tigers.

Game 7: #3 Baylor Bears vs #1 Kansas Jayhawks

Friday @ 6:30pm - ESPNU/Big 12 Network

Kansas swept Baylor 2-0

And now for the game that Bear fans are really interested in. Both of these teams dominated their 2nd round opponents Thursday morning to set up this match up. Baylor defeated Kansas State behind career night from Perry Jones III, the maligned Sophomore Big 12 pre-season player of the year. We talked about his efforts and results in the recap post so I won't rehash that. What I want to talk about here are the changes I saw in re-watching the game.

Perry Jones did a better job in this game of positioning himself for the ball in several different areas of the game. First off, he seemed to get deeper post position, and set a wider base to catch the ball. In past games, he would catch the ball with one hand while jumping out to it, ruining his post position. Sometimes this was due to bad post passing, but sometimes it was just due to Perry letting the post defender push him out. Jones III did a better job of sealing his man down low, and making it an easier post pass play.

Perry also did a great job of flashing to the basket on dribble penetration and showing his chest to the ball handler. This allowed for easy drop off passes by the ball handler (usually Pierre Jackson) and when Perry's defender went to help, he had his chest to the ball and was able to catch the pass and go up strong. He did this several times for layups, but also with this action, he was in prime position for offensive put backs.

Coach Knight talked a little bit about Perry doing an excellent job as a release valve on the perimeter several times in the 2nd half. This was an excellent point, and something I really noticed while re-watching the game. Perry didn't really do anything differently on picks or screens, but after he set these, he would not float away from the ball. He would roll out to his spot, and then with dribble penetration or movement away, he would float away from his man to allow an easier pass and better angle if the ball handler got into trouble. Great fundamental basketball there.

Alright, now that I have sufficiently bored you all to death with passing angles and chest showing, let's talk about this game a bit more. The Jayhawks abused the bears in their two earlier match ups this season behind large runs that Baylor could not respond to.

In the first game, Kansas went on a 17-2 run to close out the first half, putting the Bears in a 10 point hole at halftime. Kansas went on to extend the lead up to 20 points. In the second game it was even worse. The Jayhawks went on a 32-4 run spanning almost 11 minutes. When the Bears finally started scoring again, they were down by 21 and completely out of the game.

Baylor cannot let Kansas go on one of these HUGE game changing runs. They just can't do that especially in front of a crowd that will be more like a Kansas home game than a true neutral court. If the Bears can do that they will have a chance to win this one. If they don't, they will probably get blown out.

Personally, I am not feeling great about the Bears chances tonight. The Jayhawks absolutely destroyed Texas A&M yesterday, and shot over 60%. They were amazing in that game, against a good defensive team. Elijah Johnson got it going for them, and when they can find a third scorer to go along with Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor, they are very hard to beat.

Kansas is on a mission to make sure Missouri does not get this Big 12 title, in their last season and have those "bragging rights" for ever. When they are motivated and playing well, they are as good as any team in the nation. Add in the fact that I don't think the Bears match up very well with them, I gotta go with the Jayhawks in this one, but it will be closer than the previous two games.

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