The final weekend of the college basketball regular season is here and there is a lot at stake for Kansas, Kansas State, and Missouri. The Jayhawks are looking to continue their string of conference championships with a win over Baylor, while Kansas State will attempt to make their rivals share the title with them (or win it outright themselves) this afternoon against Oklahoma State.
Missouri has a lot of resume building to do for the NCAA tournament. A win over a win-starved Tennessee team would go a long way towards bumping the Tigers up the NCAA brackets.
KANSAS STATE at OKLAHOMA STATE
When: 12:30 p.m.
TV: KCMI (Ch. 38)
Line: Oklahoma State -6
KenPom Projection: Oklahoma State 68 (74%), Kansas State 61 (26%)
The road to Kansas State’s first conference title in 36 years is not going to be easy. Vegas and the projection systems love the Cowboys in this game and for good reason: They are at home, in need of a win after losing to Iowa State, play well on defense, rebound well, and have potentially the best player in the Big 12 in Marcus Smart.
For Kansas State to win this afternoon they’re going to need to be physical with Smart, create turnovers, and keep Oklahoma State off the offensive glass. Teams who have had the most success against Smart are the ones who attacked him in the paint on offense and knocked him around on offense. Smart is such a physical player that he can get himself in trouble with fouls. Kansas State cannot let him run around in the paint and cause problems without making him pay for it. A few good screens from Thomas Gipson early would help set the tone for the Wildcats.
The Cowboys will clean up on the offensive glass if Kansas State is not careful. The Wildcats struggle already with allowing opponents to grab their own misses. Michael Cobbins and Le’Bryan Nash will make the afternoon a very long one for the Cats if they cannot keep the rebounds under control.
It is going to be a tough game for the Wildcats to win but it will be a lot closer than what people are given Kansas State credit for. Still, Oklahoma State is just better enough in the paint on offense to put this game away in the end.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 71, Kansas State 69
MISSOURI at TENNESSEE
When: 3 p.m.
KenPom Projection: Missouri 72 (59%), Tennessee 69 (41%)
It is pretty hard to find a game more evenly matched than this one, both on the defensive and offensive end.
Both Missouri and Tennessee have been very average if not poor all season on the defensive end of the court. The Tigers are allowing opponents to shoot an effective field goal percentage of 49.9% while Tennessee is allowing opponents to shoot 48.1% in conference.
What both team have done very well in conference is rebound. Neither team allows for many opportunities of the offensive glass on defense, and the two teams are ranked 1-2 in offensive rebounding percentage.
How officials decide to call this game will probably end up being the difference in who wins and loses. The most notable difference between these two teams is the Volunteers cannot defend without fouling. The tighter this game is called, the better it may be for the Tigers. Mizzou has had obvious issues on the road against quality opponents. The closer the game remains, the more likely Missouri is to lose it based on previous performance. If the Tigers can get to the line early and often and not settle for threes then Missouri will have an excellent chance to come out of Knoxville with a win.
Prediction: Missouri 81, Tennessee 71
KANSAS at BAYLOR
When: 5 p.m.
KenPom Projection: Kansas 72 (70%), Baylor 66 (30%)
Leaving Waco with a ninth straight Big 12 championship is not going to be easy for the Jayhawks.
Baylor is an athletic, fast, and long team who can score a lot of points in a hurry and force a lot of turnovers. The problem with Baylor is the are very soft and can be easily taken out of the game mentally with a good run or with physical play.
Scott Drew can recruit but he can’t coach worth anything. Just ask any K-State fan what they thought about Drew’s idea of leaving Rodney McGruder wide open for a game winning three last Saturday. If Baylor is going to win this game it is because Baylor’s athletes were better, not because they were out-coached.
Kansas is on a seven game winning streak heading into today’s game, scoring 70 or more points in six of those games. Whatever offensive issues the Jayhawks had in January appear to have been ironed out, which has made their defense that much more suffocating.
But the Jayhawks could easily lose this game. Baylor is fighting for their NCAA tournament life and are coming off a very bad loss to Texas earlier in the week. The Bears should, theoretically, becoming out with lot of energy and a desperate desire to win. A road game against a desperate team is not something that is easy to overcome.
With that said: Scott Drew. He’s terrible. Really, really terrible. Kansas should win this game and clinch at least a share of their ninth straight title.
Prediction: Kansas 74, Baylor 70.