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College Hoops Pick
It wouldn't seem like it, but this game means a lot to both of these teams. Baylor is currently listed right on the bubble of making the NCAA Tournament. They had a very important win at West Virginia on Wednesday to halt their three-game losing streak. With games at Texas and home to Kansas to finish out the season, wins will be at a premium for the Bears and it starts with this game.
Kansas State handled Baylor in Manhattan only two weeks ago. Like many teams, Baylor is a much different team at home and a win for them here could be very important for them at the end of the year. So why do the Wildcats have to win this game then?
They're already a lock to make the NCAA tourney, so that's out of the question. K State has a Big 12 title in their sights and they don't want to be co-champs either. In-state rival Kansas has won eight straight regular season conference titles. For the Wildcats to take that crown from the Jayhawks, that could mean everything for them. While they did lose in both matchups this year, seeing defeat on the face of Jayhawks nation is what they live for. Not to mention, a road win at a possible tourney team is always good on the resume.
The Wildcats have been playing well lately with four straight wins. In fact, they've played really well all season despite small expectations early on. K State's only losses on the year are to Michigan, Gonzaga, Kansas and at Iowa State. Not many teams can win those games. Their final game of the season is at OK State, so we'll get a pretty good picture of how good they are in these next two road contests.
Rodney McGruder is the main player to worry about on the Wildcats as he is a pure scorer. He can pull up for the three, make a running jumper or drive to the lane. He's been their top scorer for two straight years for a reason. The more surprising player lately has been point guard Angel Rodriguez who's averaging 17 points per game over the last six games. He's starting to hit threes with more frequency and has just been a better all-around player. In the first matchup with Baylor, Rodriguez had a game-high 22 points and 10 assists to go with three steals. He did that all against Baylor's best player, Pierre Jackson. Kansas State won that first game with defense, getting nine steals and five blocks. It also helped that Shane Southwell hit six three-pointers, although they did win by 20 points.
Even more of a problem for Baylor is the big men duo of Jordan Henriquez and Thomas Gipson. Gipson has showed lately that he can be a factor, hitting double-digits in three straight games. Those two will get to go against Cory Jefferson and freshman Isaiah Austin who's coming off a 21-point game against the Mountaineers.
Of course, the Bears also have the great backcourt of Jackson, A.J. Walton and Brady Heslip. Heslip could not find his shot against West Virginia, but his three-ball will be important in this game. He was averaging more than three per game in his last six contests. Jackson continues to put the load on his shoulders, averaging close to 25 points per game over his last five.
The Wildcats are an all-around team that gets their scoring from all areas. Even though McGruder is their top scorer, he isn't going to take a ridiculous amount of shots each game like Jackson is. That's the advantage they have on a lot of teams. Jackson will need to be a little smarter and more in control (3.6 turnovers per game) to grab a win.
This is what the season comes down to for both teams, let's see what they can do when the last shot decides the winner.
Predicted Score - Baylor 67 Kansas State 63
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