Unfortunately, the matchup that everyone had hoped would materialize — Kansas vs. Missouri, Rd. III — didn’t happen.
With everything surrounding the first two games between the two teams and Missouri’s impending move to the SEC, I think the entirety of the college basketball watching world that isn’t affiliated with Baylor or Texas was hoping for what could have ended up being the final installment of the Border War.
Missouri took care of business. After the Tigers ran through Oklahoma State on Thursday night, Phil Pressey and Kim English held Mizzou make easy work out of the Longhorns on Friday despite a rancid shooting night from Marcus Denmon. Denmon was 0-10 from the floor, but English hit his first nine shots from the field and finished with 23 points. In two Big 12 Tournament games, English is 20-23 from the floor, 7-9 from three and averaging 25.0 ppg. That’s not bad.
That hot-shooting from English is going to be very important heading into the Big 12 title game as the Tigers will be going up against a Baylor team that has, all of a sudden, found their rhythm.
On Friday night, the Bears followed up an impressive win over Kansas State with an 81-72 victory against Kansas. The fact that the Bears have, seemingly, figured out the recipe to beating the teams at the top of the Big 12 — heading into the postseason, Baylor had been 2-6 against the rest of the top five and 0-4 against Kansas and Missouri — is a big deal. Their issues were as much a mental obstacle as they were an issue of talent.
What’s more important, however, is that Perry Jones III may have finally found the mean streak we’ve been waiting on for almost two full seasons now.
Against Kansas State, Jones had 31 points and 11 boards, going 11-14 from the field and thoroughly dominating a very good Wildcat front line. While his numbers weren’t quite as impressive against Kansas — he finished with 18 points and seven boards — he did outplay Thomas Robinson, who never quite seemed to find a rhythm.
That matters because it is going to be English that spends the majority of the game matched up with Jones.
We all know that Missouri plays four guards, with English lining up at the team’s power forward. He’s done a valiant job this season battling with opposing big men in the paint, but if Jones decides he wants to take over, there is very little that any power forward in the country would be able to do to stop him, let alone the 6’6″ English.
It mismatch works the other way as well. PJ3 is not naturally inclined towards defending on the perimeter. If Kimmie is shooting the way that he has thus far in the tournament, that is going to be a matchup for Missouri to exploit.
If Baylor does win tonight, its going to throw a massive wrench in the spokes of every bracketeer around the country who had already planned on having the Bears get upset in the second round.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.