No. 1 Kansas (25-6, 14-2) vs. No. 9 Baylor (18-13, 5-11)
Thursday, March 12 at 12:30 p.m. EST
Spread: Kansas -9.0
Backcourt Advantage: Even
As coach Bill Self tries to lead his Kansas Jayhawks to their fourth straight Big 12 title, leading scorer Sherron Collins (18.3 PPG, 5.0 APG) is the only member of this team who played a major role in last year's championship. Collins will lead his top-seeded Jayhawks into tournament action against Curtis Jerrells (16.2 PPG) and the Bears.
In their regular season meeting, Kansas prevailed 75-65 behind a game-high 17 points from Collins. Collins will be helped in the backcourt by consistent sophomore Brady Morningstar (6.9 PPG) and emerging freshman Tyshawn Taylor (10 PPG). Taylor has scored in double-digits in each of his past four games, averaging 15.8 points per contest.
Baylor's offense will be paced by its four guards, each of whom average double-figures. Jerrells is their leading scorer, but he'll get solid help from LaceDarius Dunn (15.1 PPG), Tweety Carter (11.4 PPG), and Henry Dugat (10.4 PPG). The Bears won't be gun-shy either. They are averaging 8.1 three-pointers made per game.
Frontcourt Advantage: Kansas
Sophomore Cole Aldrich (14.8 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.5 BPG) has been dominant inside this season for the Jayhawks. He has been the perfect compliment to Collins, both offensively and defensively. With the Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff, helping on the glass, Kansas should have a decisive edge inside.
Baylor's inside presence revolves around senior forward Kevin Rogers (12.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG), but they don't have much depth behind him. Rogers pulled down a career-high 20 rebounds against Nebraska in the first round, but don't expect him to come close to that many against the bigger, stronger Jayhawks.
In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Kansas after last year's National Championship, the Jayhawks finished 14-2 in the Big 12 to earn the regular season crown and the top seed.
Kansas was actually picked to finish tied for third in the conference with Baylor in the preseason coaches' poll, behind Texas and Oklahoma. After a promising start, Baylor faded down the stretch, however, losing 10 of its last 12 regular season games.
The Bears have not had much luck historically against the Jayhawks. Baylor is just 1-12 in school history against Kansas and have dropped eight straight, including their 75-65 loss on Feb. 2.
Baylor will be playing for their tournament lives in this game, but the Jayhawks should prevail. Look for Kansas to win a game that may be closer than expected.
Shaun's Pick: Baylor +9.0
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