I was able to watch the Baylor -Kansas and Texas-Kansas State games this week and came away impressed with both the Bears and the Longhorns.
Baylor (13-5, 4-1) lost their third contest in a row, but put up a strong effort in a 78-68 defeat to the Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse. They made 13 three-pointers as a team and even out-rebounded Kansas 31-28. However, they finished with 16 turnovers, which cancelled out terrific performances by Brady Heslip (19 points, 6-9 3FGs) and Cory Jefferson (16 points, 6-10 FGs).
While Baylor is headed in the wrong direction, Texas (15-4, 4-2) is clearly headed in the right one. The Horns have now knocked off two ranked opponents in row after beating the 22nd ranked Wildcats 67-64 in Austin on a stunning Jonathan Holmes buzzer beater. My way-too-early imaginary vote for Big 12 Coach of the Year is for Rick Barnes. He has this young team, which lost their four leading scorers from last year, believing and in prime position for a ticket to the Big Dance.
I see two significant factors in this game that will make or break each team: rebounding and point guard play. Texas and Baylor are great at getting boards, ranking first and third respectively in rebounds per game. I’m interested to see how Holmes and big man Cameron Ridley stack up against Jefferson and Isaiah Austin on the road. Ridley has scored in double figures in his last three contests while Austin is coming off a season-high 16 point performance against Kansas. This should be a fantastic matchup to watch,
I’m even more excited to see the battle of the breakthrough floor generals.
I think Baylor’s Kenny Cherry is their program’s best point guard since Tweety Carter several years ago. Texas’ Javan Felix has improved leaps and bounds from last season. Besides Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, who could have been a lottery pick last summer, these guys might be playing better than any other point guard in the Big 12.
Cherry has now gone 13 straight games with a 2-to-1 or better assist-to-turnover ratio. Felix is averaging 17.2 points per game since conference play began, including a team-high 23 points against Kansas State. This will be a point guard duel at its finest.
So now it’s prediction time. As an Aggie, it would be great to see both lose, but I guess I’ll go with the Horns in a close one. According to the Ken Pomeroy ratings, Baylor is just 103rd in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency while Texas is 43rd. Texas is on fire and playing with loads of confidence, while Baylor has to be questioning its ability during this cold streak. Look for these trends to continue.
Texas 80, Baylor 73