By Greg DeVries
Baylor men’s basketball will begin the Big 12 tournament against the Kansas State Wildcats at 11:30 a.m. today at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. This will be the third meeting of the season between these two teams. The Bears split the series with the Wildcats in the regular season 1-1.
“We’ve had two great games, two game-ending situations with both teams. It seems like every time we play K-State it’s a hard-fought game that goes down to the wire,” head coach Scott Drew said. “I think it’s a great game for ESPN and I think the fans that are there at 11:30 will enjoy it.”
The Wildcats may be the lower-seeded team, but they have proven their abilities. Kansas State swept Missouri, beat Baylor once and beat talented teams in their non-conference schedule.
“We both play eight, nine guys. Ten guys. They’re physical. We’ve been one of the best rebounding teams. They’re the best rebounding team,” Drew said.
The first game of the series came on Jan. 10 in Manhattan, Kan. Baylor shot nearly 54 percent from the field in a 75-73 victory. Senior Quincy Acy, sophomore Perry Jones III and sophomore Brady Heslip all finished in double figures. Junior Pierre Jackson finished with a double-double off the bench. Baylor won the turnover battle and outrebounded the Wildcats.
The second game was on Feb. 18 at the Ferrell Center. Kansas State won 57-56 by virtue of their defense. The Wildcats recorded 10 steals, seven blocks and held the Bears to less than 39 percent shooting.
Wildcat junior Rodney McGruder has played well all season, but some of his best games have come against Baylor. McGruder is shooting 64 percent from the floor, 55 percent from the 3-point arc and is perfect from the free-throw line against the Bears.
In the two games, he has recorded 45 points.
“I think it all starts with Rodney McGruder for them because he is an all-league performer and somebody that has consistently, night-in and night-out, been able to score and give them big games on the offensive end,” Drew said. “He does a great job on the glass. He is one of the best rebounders, if not the best rebounding guard in the conference.”
One aspect of Kansas State’s game that causes problems for opponents is their physical play.
“They just pride themselves on being tough,” Acy said. “We have to match their intensity.”
With the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, Mo., Kansas State will likely have a strong home court advantage. The Sprint Center is only two hours from Kansas State’s campus.
“They always have great fan support, even the last time we went up there. We know what we’re going to be facing,” Acy said.
If the Bears and the Kansas Jayhawks both win one game, Baylor will have to deal with Kansas’ fans. Their campus is only 45 minutes from the arena.
During the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments, Baylor will be wearing new adizero uniforms by Adidas. The uniforms will debut against Kansas State and run through the rest of the postseason.