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The Shootaround: March Awaits

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The final week of the regular season is upon us. Baylor's reward is 2 more games against top 10 opponents.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Week In Review

#2 Kansas 66 #19 Baylor 60
66
KANSAS
(24-4, 12-3)
1ST 2ND F
33 33 66
36 24 60

Box ScoreQuotesNotesUSATSI Photo Gallery Photo Gallery

Waco, Texas • Attendance: 8,259

60
BAYLOR
(20-8, 9-6)

An opportunity for a signature win went by the wayside in the final minutes as Baylor was unable to hold off Kansas in the Ferrell Center, falling 66-60. This was a close fought ballgame throughout and the Bears held the upper hand for much of the 2nd half. But there is a reason that Kansas just clinched its 12th consecutive (!!!) Big 12 regular season championship. Bill Self teams just have a knack for closing out at the end of games and the Jayhawks executed better than Baylor did in the final few minutes. The 1st half was a back and forth affair that saw Baylor do most of its work in the paint while KU was hitting shots from the outside. Frank Mason and Perry Ellis both were getting theirs for Kansas but the Bears were controlling the offensive glass and getting second chance points. Baylor got a huge boost going into halftime as Ish Wainright hit Rico Gathers with a full court pass that led to Rico’s first 3 pointer of his Baylor career. No really, that actually happened! The Ferrell Center was rocking and the Bears fed off that energy as they opened up an 8 point lead in the opening minutes of the 2nd half. Al Freeman hit a couple big 3’s and led the way for Baylor with 17 points. But Kansas clawed its way back and when it came down to crunch time, KU was able to make the key plays that Baylor wasn’t. The Bears played very sound defensively but were killed on the defensive boards at the end of the game which allowed the Jayhawks to get several crippling second chance baskets. Baylor played well for 36 minutes, but it required 40 minutes to knock off the #2 team in the country. We still had that Rico 3 though!

#19 Baylor 86 TCU 71
86
BAYLOR
(21-8, 10-6)
1ST 2ND F
42 44 86
31 40 71

Box ScoreQuotesNotesUSATSI Photo Gallery Photo Gallery | Postgame

Fort Worth, Texas • Attendance: 6,364

71
TCU
(11-18, 2-14)

To quote the great DJ Khaled: "and another one". Baylor waltzed into Fort Worth and continued dominance over TCU with a 86-71 win. This makes the Bears a perfect 9-0 against the Horned Frogs since TCU joined the Big 12 prior to the 2012-13 season. At the same time, TCU is 9-65 against Big 12 opponents in that same span. BU jumped out to a quick 11-0 lead and although it wasn’t always easy, they never trailed in this one. Baylor absolutely dominated this game on the boards, outrebounding TCU 45-21 and scoring at will in the paint. But the Bears had a couple of stretches where the turnover bug bit hard and TCU was able to capitalize on those turnovers. Coupled with an uncharacteristically hot shooting night from the outside by the Frogs, this looked like it was going to be a tight finish as the Bears only led 57-55 with nine minutes to go. And that’s when Taurean Prince and Johnathan Motley teamed up to put the game out of reach, combining for 24 of Baylor’s final 29 points in a 29-16 finishing kick. Prince and Motley both led the way for the game with 22 points apiece, and Lester Medford had his sixth double digit assist game of the season. Ish Wainright also continued his great play of late with 11 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Malique Trent led the way for TCU with a game high 25 points, but Baylor did a good job of keeping him out of the paint in the latter stages of the 2nd half as Trent had been killing the Bears with the dribble drive up until that point. With this win, Baylor improves to a ridiculous 6-2 on the road in the Big 12 and has won 10+ conference games in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1987 and 1988 in the old Southwest Conference. It may not have always been pretty, but a conference road win is always a thing of beauty.

Gathers to Tryout for NFL

Unless you’ve been in hiding since last Friday, you’re probably aware by now that Rico Gathers has announced that he will be pursuing a career in the NFL once the Baylor basketball season has concluded. It’s been much ballyhooed for years now that Rico is a basketball player trapped in a tight end’s body. We’ve heard it from TV analysts for four years now. And now it’s going to be a real thing. Rico hopes to follow in the footsteps of guys like Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham who were basketball players in college but transitioned to All-Pros at TE in the NFL. We all know how good Rico is at grabbing a rebound out of midair. We’ll have to see how that translates to catching a pass in traffic over the middle. It will certainly be fun to keep track of once the Bears’ season is over, hopefully after a long run in the NCAA Tournament. But his training is already off to a good start.

Looking Ahead

#19 Baylor @ #6 Oklahoma
Lloyd Noble Center (Norman, OK)
Mar. 1, 7:00 PM CT
ESPN2

Baylor begins a brutal final week with a trip to Norman to take on the suddenly struggling Oklahoma Sooners. OU has fallen out of the top 5 in the polls for the first time since mid-December as they have gone into a team-wide dry spell with their 3 point shooting. The Sooners started the year 19-2 and looked poised to end Kansas’ reign atop the Big 12 standings, but a seven game stretch that has seen them go 3-4 has put the kibosh on that idea. In OU’s loss at Texas on Saturday, Buddy Hield put up 33 points but the rest of the Oklahoma team shot 11-37 (29.7%). Hield will obviously need to be Baylor’s main focus but it is contributions from other guys like Jordan Woodard and Isaiah Cousins that usually make the Sooners so tough to beat. In the first matchup in Waco, Hield got into foul trouble in the 1st half but his teammates more than picked up the slack. Oklahoma regularly got open shots from ball movement against a flailing Baylor zone, as OU assisted on 29 of their 31 made baskets including 16 3 pointers. Baylor will clearly need a better defensive performance to have a shot to steal this one on the road, but the Bears have played a bit better on defense over the last two weeks. It should also be pointed out that this is senior night for Hield and several other Sooners, so Baylor will have to be ready for OU to come out with a big emotional boost from their crowd. Limiting turnovers and executing offensively will be critical.

#10 West Virginia @ #19 Baylor
Ferrell Center (Waco, TX)
Mar. 5, 1:00 PM CT
ESPN

The regular season comes to a close on Saturday afternoon as the Bears host West Virginia. WVU is back in the top 10 this week following wins over Iowa State and Oklahoma State. The Mountaineers are the only team in the conference that still has a shot at sharing the Big 12 regular season championship with Kansas as WVU is two games back with two to play. Bob Huggins’ team has repeated its success from last season with a constant pressing and trapping defense that allows for helter skelter play and, ideally for WVU, a lot of easy buckets in transition. Baylor absolutely schooled the Mountaineers in three meetings last season but the Bears struggled in a 80-69 loss in Morgantown back on February 6. Baylor actually did a really nice job of managing the West Virginia press as BU only turned the ball over 10 times. But when the Bears crossed halfcourt, they had a really difficult time putting the ball in the basket, shooting just 33.3% as the Mountaineers pulled away in the 2nd half. So Baylor will simply need to go a better job of shooting the ball in the second meeting (sometimes basketball is a really simple sport). Although it’s been well chronicled that Baylor has been a better road team than home team in conference play, the Bears have shot the ball much better from the outside in Waco this season than they have elsewhere. We’ll need a great senior day crowd to salute this team one final time this season. For Rico Gathers, Taurean Prince, Lester Medford and John Heard, this will be their last game ever in the Ferrell Center. It would be fantastic to send them out with a big win.

Big 12 Update

Kansas has clinched at least a share of the Big 12 regular season championship, and can clinch it outright with a win this week.

Standings

CONFERENCE OVERALL
W-L GB PCT W-L PCT STRK
#1 Kansas 13-3 -- 0.813 25-4 0.862 W9
#10 West Virginia 11-5 2 0.688 22-7 0.759 W2
#6 Oklahoma 10-6 3 0.625 22-6 0.786 L1
#19 Baylor 10-6 3 0.625 21-8 0.724 W1
#23 Texas 10-6 3 0.625 19-10 0.655 W2
#21 Iowa State 9-7 4 0.563 20-9 0.690 W1
Texas Tech 8-8 5 0.500 18-10 0.643 L1
Kansas State 4-12 9 0.250 15-14 0.517 L3
Oklahoma State 3-13 10 0.188 12-17 0.414 L4
TCU 2-14 11 0.125 11-18 0.379 L5

Big 12 Tournament

With one week to go in the regular season, here's what the bracket looks like as of today. Baylor would be the 5 as of today, but could still be as high as 2 or as low as 7 depending on this week's results.

AP Top 25

The Bears hold at 19 this week. Kansas jumps back up to #1 and there are six teams from the Big 12 in the top 25 with Texas Tech just outside the poll as well.

RK TEAM RECORD PTS
1 Kansas (63) 25-4 1,623
2 Michigan State (2) 24-5 1,510
3 Villanova 25-4 1,479
4 Virginia 22-6 1,405
5 Xavier 25-4 1,356
6 Oklahoma 22-6 1,297
7 Miami (FL) 23-5 1,211
8 North Carolina 23-6 1,205
9 Oregon 23-6 1,065
10 West Virginia 22-7 1,056
11 Louisville 22-7 822
12 Indiana 23-6 819
13 Utah 23-7 751
14 Maryland 23-6 733
15 Purdue 22-7 613
16 Iowa 20-8 572
17 Duke 21-8 495
18 Arizona 22-7 450
19 Baylor 21-8 447
20 Texas A&M 22-7 419
21 Iowa State 20-9 413
22 Kentucky 21-8 405
23 Texas 19-10 338
24 SMU 24-4 196
25 California 21-8 178
Others receiving votes: Wisconsin 93, Seton Hall 60, Wichita State 43, St. Joseph's 29, Notre Dame 14, Texas Tech 12, Cincinnati 4, Vanderbilt 3, St. Mary's 3, Arkansas-Little Rock 2, Valparaiso 2, Dayton 1, Stephen F. Austin 1
Dropped from rankings: Notre Dame 23

Bracket Projections

Baylor is anywhere from a 4 seed to a 7 seed depending on where you are looking for your finest bracket projections. I had Baylor as a 5 in ODBracketology last week and I'll be releasing a new bracket sometime later this week.