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Archive for Monday, January 16, 2012

Dreamin’ until tonight’s tipoff

January 16, 2012

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Close your eyes and picture places you might want to be at 8:30 p.m. today.

Walking down the 18th fairway in Maui, where the sun still will be shining brightly on the island.

Teeing off on the first hole in Australia, hoping a lonesome kangaroo doesn’t wander onto the course as one once did in the Australian PGA as Rory Sabbatini sized up a shot.

Hanging out with Hugh Hefner at the mansion pool wearing shades and having grapes ever-so-slowly fed to me.

Dream scenarios, yet they all compete for second place.

If I could choose to be anywhere tonight, it would be sitting in Allen Fieldhouse, watching undefeated underdog Baylor take on thrice-beaten favorite Kansas in a clash between the lone remaining Big 12 teams without a conference loss.

Tangible basketball reasons favor Baylor. The intangibles are on the side of Kansas.

Baylor (17-0) will be ranked third in the nation by the time the game tips off, Kansas somewhere in the top 10.

This is ninth-year Baylor coach Scott Drew’s best team in the same school year the Bears have the Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III, and the nation’s best women’s basketball player, Brittney Griner. Starting Nov. 5, when Griffin III threw for 406 yards and three touchdowns to defeat Missouri, 42-39, Baylor has a 40-0 record in the three sports.

That remarkable winning streak faces its toughest test tonight.

Kansas has more drive and the best player in the game, Thomas Robinson; Baylor the superior depth, size and shooting.

To appreciate the Bears’ depth, consider that junior guard A.J. Walton played 33 minutes a game last season, 20.4 this year. Senior forward Anthony Jones played 26.6 minutes a game as a sophomore, 29.8 as a junior, 17.9 this season.

Pierre Jackson, a 5-10 junior-college transfer, doesn’t start but gets the majority of minutes at point guard. He ranks second in the Big 12 in steals (1.9) and three-point percentage (.492) and fifth in assists. Boston College transfer Brady Heslip is third with a .481 long-range accuracy rate.

On the front line, senior jumping jack Quincy Acy (second to Jeff Withey with 2.4 blocks a game) joins McDonald’s All-Americans Perry Jones III, a sophomore, and freshman Quincy Miller.

Last season’s leading scorer LaceDarius Dunn, who could get a shot off whenever he wanted, which was pretty much whenever he touched the ball, and his 19.6 ppg are gone and in some ways forgotten.

“One thing about LaceDarius (Dunn), he was hard to guard, but it made others easier to guard,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Now there’s more balance. I think they’re harder to guard as a team than they were last year.”

Baylor, noted for its 2-3 zone, has mixed in more man-to-man defense and had great results with it in a road victory against Kansas State. But unless KU can shoot Baylor out of its zone, the Jayhawks won’t see as much man.

This isn’t Self’s best team, but it might be his grittiest. And then there is the best home-court advantage in basketball.

Seconds will feel like hours as the clock crawls toward 8:30.

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