When Kansas took the floor at the Ferrell Center in Waco for its regular season finale against Baylor on Saturday, the Jayhawks were well aware that Kansas State had fallen at Oklahoma State in the early game that day and that all they needed to claim sole ownership of their ninth consecutive conference championship was to defeat Baylor for the second time this season and the eighth time in the last 10 meetings.
The Jayhawks knew that the worst that could happen was a co-championship shared with Kansas State and even then, because of Kansas’ season sweep of its in-state archrival, the No, 1 seed in next week’s Big 12 Tournament was belonged to the Crimson and Blue regarless. It was a scenario that played right into Baylor’s lap.
Baylor arguably has been the Big 12 biggest disappointment this season. Coming into Saturday’s showdown with Kansas, the Bears had dropped five of their last six league outings and they had only beaten Kansas once at the Ferrell Center in the 17-year Big 12 era. Because of their free fall over the final month of the regular season, the Bears had positioned themselves on the wrong side of the proverbial bubble of teams fighting to earn an invite to the prized NCAA Tournament. As a result of having to fight for postseason lives, Baylor’s motivation to win was considerably higher than the Jayhawks.
And as so often happens under these circumstance, it doesn’t matter which team is better. What matters is which team is better and wants it more in that particular game. Baylor clearly had more to lose and showed in on Saturday, laying a 23-point beatdown on the heavily favored Jayhawks. The margin of victory for Baylor was the third worst loss for Kansas in Big 12 history, during which time the Jayhawks have been crowned champion or co-champion in 13 of 17 seasons.
The Bears’ dominance on Saturday was pretty much beginning to end. Kansas took the early 2-0 lead, but never led after that. The Jayhawks found themselves down by 11 at halftime, 38-27, and were only able to close to within six in the second half before Baylor finished off the visitors with a 20-3 run to close out the game. The Bears ended the regular season with a 9-9 mark in the conference (18-13 overall and the No. 6 seed and first-round bye in the upcoming Big 12 Tournament.
Baylor’s upset of Kansas bailed out Kansas State and enabled the Wildcats to claim half of the conference crown, their first conference title in basketball since the 1977 season. K-State held a four-point lead with hust under five minutes remaining in the game, but it just wasn’t to be on Senior Day in Stillwater as the Cowboys put on a surge at the end, draining 15 of their final 17 free throws, to close out the home court win and secure the three seed in the Big 12 Tournament.
That wasn’t all the surprises around the Big 12 on Saturday. TCU pulled off its second major upset of the season and only its second conference win in its first season in the Big 12, holding on at the end for a 70-67 victory over Oklahoma. The Horned Frogs has stunned Kansas in early February, winning by seven in early February for their first win in the league after eight straight losses. The Sooners were down by 22 points at halftime and trailed by as many as 25 points before stormng back to get within a single point, at 59-58, with 4:23 to go in the game. OU could get no closer and never led in the game.
TCU shot 61 percent (19 for 31) in the first half and 71 percent (5 of 7) from the three-point line in recording its best first-half of the season. Before Saturday, OU had led at halftime in each of its previous eight games by an average margin of 11 points. The Sooners’ only loss during that eight-game stretch was a 92-86 overtime loss to Texas after surrending a 22-point advantage with just under eight minutes to go in the game.
In yet another somewhat moderate surprise, Texas fought back from a 16-point first-half deficit on the road at Texas Tech to defeat the Red Raiders 71-69 in overtime on a buzzer-beating shot from the Longhorns’ Julian Lewis. By winning two of its final three games, the Longhorns finished with 7-11 record in the league and jumped West Virginia for the seventh seed and an opening-round matchup with 10-seed TCU instead of Texas Texh, the No. 9 seed, in next week’s conference tournamen
Even with all the surprises in the final weekend of the regular season, there was virtually no shakeup in the tournament seeds and pairings. Only the seven and eight seeds changed places. All the other Big 12 seeds remained the same as they were going into Saturday’s action.
One thing that probably did change, however, is Kansas’ hope for a No, 1 seed in the NCAA Championship and any chance Oklahoma might have had to earn a single-digit seed come Selection Sunday a week from today.
Fasten your seat belts and secure your brackets. The Madness is just beginning.
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