On January 22 in Waco, K-State’s offense really clicked as the Wildcats beat the Baylor Bears 90-83. K-State followed up that effort with three straight games in the 50s, and the offense has been unpredictable from the end of January through February. Maybe March will wake up the shooters’ touch and bring balance back to Bruce’s boys.
K-State has been exactly break-even since the first meeting between these squads, winning 5 and losing 5. Meanwhile, Baylor has earned a 6-4 mark (one of their losses was to Florida), a mark that includes wins against Kansas, Texas Tech and OU—all of which beat K-State convincingly during that time period. Baylor’s mark is more impressive than it sounds, given that after another league loss following the K-State game, the Bears were 2-7 in Big 12 play. They have dug themselves out of a very deep hole.
The game has important implications for both Big 12 Tournament seeding and potential NCAA selection. K-State, at 9-8, is tied for 4th in the conference with TCU, while Baylor resides alone in 6th, at 8-9. K-State has already clinched a first-round bye in the Big 12 tournament, but could finish as high as the 4th seed with a win and some help, or as low as 6th with a loss. Baylor could be 5, 6 or 7, depending on outcomes of this and other games.
More importantly, both teams have to believe this game will impact their fates as potential NCAA at-large selections. As Luke Thompson told us in his Tournament Thursday, K-State has again pitched a tent on its annual tournament bubble plot. Most experts predict they will get in, but few have the Wildcats higher than a 10-seed, and absolutely nobody is calling them a “lock.”
Baylor, despite holding several impressive wins, may need this game even more urgently. With 12 losses already, one today and another, presumably, in the Big 12 tournament would give them 14. Teams have made the field with that many defeats, but the Bears are already bubbly as cheap champagne. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi projects Baylor as an 11-seed, one of the “last four in.” Expect Scott Drew’s team to be a very motivated bunch.
Kansas State Wildcats (20-10, 9-8 Big 12) vs. Baylor Bears (18-14, 8-9) at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan. K-State holds a 20-18 advantage in the all-time series, and only a 10-8 lead at home. The home court, traditionally, has not been predictive of outcome.
Players to Watch
Dean Wade (K-State) 16.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists
Barry Brown, Jr. (K-State) 16.6 points, 3.4 assists, 1.8 steals
Manu Lecomte (Baylor) 16.0 points, 3.6 assists
Jo Lual-Acuil, Jr. (Baylor) 14.7 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.9 blocks
Vegas recognizes the unpredictability of the game, giving the home-team a 1 1/2 point edge, with an over/under of 134. That calculates to a 68-66 K-State win. OddsShark is back to being haters, predicting a 71-69 Baylor win.
Saturday, March 3, 1:00 p.m, Fred Bramlage Coliseum (12,528), Manhattan, Kansas
$25 bench/$50 chairbacks from the ticket office. Secondary market tickets for as little as $23. Wait until game time, and you know you can get in cheap. You could only find more empties in the back end of a Chevy pickup at the lake.
ESPN (that’s right—the BIG network; none of this ESPNU garbage, for a change) with Mark Neely (play-by-play) and Bryndon Manzer (analyst)
K-State Sports Network with Wyatt Thompson (play-by-play) and Stan Weber (analyst).
Online and Satellite
The K-State broadcast is also available on TuneIn.com (free), at www.kstatesports.com/watch (free) or for satellite radio subscribers at Sirius 132/XM 199/Internet 953.
The Cats need this to feel secure for the NCAA tournament. The Bears need it even worse. Ah, desperation. Should be fun.