February 09, 2012

Three quick thoughts on Kansas' impressive 68-54 win over Baylor on Wednesday night, which dropped the Bears a game behind both Kansas and Missouri in the Big 12 standings.

1. Baylor's defense was offensive. For all the talent that the Bears have on their roster, they are not going to do anything of note in the postseason until they learn how to consistently defend at an elite level. On the whole, Baylor has been far from terrible this year. The Bears are 26th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency according to Kenpom.com, giving up just 0.925 PPP on that end of the floor. That puts them well above teams like Missouri, Indiana, Duke and Florida. The problem is that their defense tends to disappear when Baylor goes up against elite competition. In their 92-74 loss to Kansas back in January, Baylor gave up a season-high 1.296 PPP. In the 89-88 loss to Missouri that followed, the Bears allowed 1.187 PPP.

Wednesday's performance was far from terrible when looking at the box score -- Kansas scored 1.015 PPP and turned the ball over 19 times -- but, once again, when you look a bit deeper, it gets ugly. With nine minutes to go in the first half, Kansas was down 19-9 and shooting 2-for-11 from the floor with seven turnovers. After two free throws from Quincy Acy with 4:42 to go in the half, Baylor was ahead 27-19. That's good. But by the end of the half, the Jayhawks had taken a 33-30 lead and at the 12:33 mark of the second half, they had pushed that lead to 56-34. That's a 39-7 run in the span of just over 12 minutes of game time.

2. Death, taxes and Kansas winning the Big 12. This was supposed to be the year that Kansas fell from top of the conference. The Jayhawks lost the majority of their roster to either graduation or the NBA and their recruiting class was decimated by ineligible freshmen. As a result, Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor were surrounded by career reserves and former walk-ons. But once again, Bill Self has Kansas in a position to win at least a share of their eighth straight Big 12 title. With four of their last seven games at home -- including the rematch with Missouri on February 25 -- the Jayhawks very much control their own destiny.

At this point, it is still too soon to count Baylor out of the Big 12 race, not when the Bears have that much talent on their roster. What happens if they do put it all together? What happens if Perry Jones III learns how to become assertive and intense and take advantage of his physical tools? What if Scott Drew learns how to reach the players on his team? The Bears still have the potential to be great, but as we have seen this season, potential does not equal wins.

3. PJ III or T-Rob? After going scoreless against Missouri on Saturday night, Kansas center Jeff Withey exploded for a career-high 25 points against Baylor. But that wasn't the most surprising performance of the night. Jones, who is projected to be a top five pick in the NBA Draft whenever he decides to leave school, finished with just five points and three boards on 1-8 shooting. Quincy Miller, another potential lottery pick, had three points on 1-4 shooting and was sent to the bench after picking up a flagrant foul on a vicious elbow he planted on Withey's chest.

Jones also had eight points on 4-for-7 shooting in Baylor's loss to Missouri, eight points on 4-for-13 shooting in a win over Mississippi State and four points on 2-for-9 shooting in an overtime win against West Virginia. By comparison, Robinson had an off nights against Kentucky and Duke back in November and averaged 13.5 ppg and 13.5 rpg in the two losses. He battled foul trouble against Baylor on Wednesday and still managed 15 points and 11 boards, which paled in comparison to his 27 points and 14 boards the first time the two teams played. He also had 25 points and 13 boards against Missouri on Saturday. I'll take T-Rob any day.

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