Even when they lose, they win.
Kansas appeared to be sleep-walking at Baylor, losing 81-58 tonight, but still took home a share of the Big 12 title. Kansas has earned at least a share of the league crown in each of the past nine seasons. The Jayhawks were assured of the milestone when Oklahoma State beat Kansas State earlier in the day. The Jayhawks swept the Wildcats in season play, so they get the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 tournament.
That may not seem quite fair, but there’s every chance that Big 12 opponents will get the last laugh. Kansas has – at least temporarily – fallen off the No. 1 seed line in the NCAA tournament, and once again showed the baffling inconsistency that plagued the team during a three-game February losing streak. The inability to create game-saving runs when playing behind may come back to haunt the Jayhawks on the bigger stage of late March.
Bill Self got strong play from his freshmen in the loss. Ben McLemore splashed 23 points, and backup big man Perry Ellis chipped in twelve.
Pierre Jackson went off for Baylor, throwing down an epic open-floor dunk in the game’s final minutes. It was the highlight-reel capper to a stellar senior day performance that saw the point guard score 28 points to go with six boards, ten assists and two steals. Forward Cory Jefferson, who had not hit a trey all season long, went 3-3 from deep as part of a 25-point effort. Isaiah Austin and A.J. Walton were in double figures as well.
The Bears had a great night in front of RGIII and Pierre Jackson’s dancin’ grandma, but their tourney hopes at this point are best summed up by this tweet from SI.com’s Andy Glockner:
The Bears will have to run the table in the
Kansas/Oklahoma Invitational Big 12 Tournament in order to know they’re in the Big Dance.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.
Not exactly noted for their ability to knock down shots from the perimeter, No. 14 West Virginia grabbed sole possession of first place in the Big 12 thanks in part to their perimeter shooting. The Mountaineers shot 7-for-14 from three and 49.1 percent from the field in a 80-69 win over No. 15 Baylor that wasn’t as close as the final margin would lead one to believe.
Bob Huggins’ team led by as much as 19 in the second half, and the way in which they did it is what makes the win so impressive. “Press Virginia” yielded just ten Baylor turnovers, but that low number didn’t matter much thanks to West Virginia’s execution offensively.
They found quality looks against Baylor’s 1-1-3 zone in the first half and made them at a good clip, forcing Scott Drew to switch to man-to-man. That change didn’t do much to slow down West Virginia either, as Daxter Miles Jr. scored 20 points and sixth man Jaysean Paige added 17 off the bench. And with Devin Williams chipping in with 16 points and seven boards in the post, outplaying Baylor’s Rico Gathers Sr. (five points, seven rebounds), West Virginia grabbed control of the game in the first half and did not relinquish it.
The usual formula for West Virginia offensively is to attack the offensive glass, as their offensive rebounding percentage (43 percent) is tops in the country. “Their best offense is a missed shot” is a familiar refrain heard when people discuss the Mountaineers, who entered the game shooting just over 30 percent from three.
They didn’t need to lean on those second chances as heavily as they normally do Saturday night, not only because of the improved accuracy but also the improved work in finding shots. The ball moved against the Baylor defense and so did the players, resulting in an offensive attack that proved tougher for the visiting Bears to stop that one would expect given the statistics entering the game.
West Virginia was already established as a contender in the Big 12, but thanks to their win Saturday night the Mountaineers are the current pace setters. With a showdown at No. 7 Kansas set for Tuesday night, this was a big win for Bob Huggins’ team to get. And with it coming in spite of a low turnover (forced) count, this should only help West Virginia in the confidence department moving forward.
Brendan Taylor scored 24 points to lead Penn State to a 68-63 upset of No. 22 Indiana on Saturday night.
The Nittany Lions were 2-8 in Big Ten play entering the weekend. Indiana? They were 9-1 and tied for first in the conference. It’s the second loss in four games for the Hoosiers following a 7-0 start to Big Ten play, a fact made all the more concerning by the fact that their league schedule is finally about to get difficult.
The Hoosiers play No. 5 Iowa at home and No. 10 Michigan State in East Lansing next week. The following week they get No. 18 Purdue at home. In the final week of the regular season, Indiana squares off with No. 5 Iowa on the road and close the regular season with a visit from No. 4 Maryland.
That’s a lot of good teams that the Hoosiers to close out the year.
The question has been asked since Indiana’s hot start to league play: Are they for real? Did the Hoosiers really somehow turn things around defensively, or was that winning streak simply a by-product of their schedule?
The truth is that it was probably a combination of both. Calling them a fraud would be unjust — if you watched those games, there wasn’t much fluky about them; Indiana earned the Ws — but it does seem fair to say this is something of a regression to the mean.
They were going to slip up eventually.
And it will totally be forgotten if the Hoosiers can find a way to close the regular season with a winning record in their final seven games.