The Big 12 has been the class of college basketball all season, and Kansas debated Saturday to be the class of that conference.
Just a couple hours after Texas battled last place Oklahoma, the No. 7 Jayhawks pulled off a decision win over No. 9 Baylor.
Trailing by as many as 17 points in the first half, Kansas completed a stunning 34-point swing with four minutes left to lead 80-63 and finish with an 87-71 win.
With the win, Kansas moves to a tie with Texas for first place in the Big 12 standings, with each program sitting at 10-4. Baylor, meanwhile, sits at 9-5.
Baylor hit nine 3-pointers in the first half to take a 45-32 lead in the locker room, but a 55-point blitz by KU after halftime was Baylor’s undoing. Kansas hit 63.3% of its shots in the second half and made 50% from long range. The 3 big came from Gradey Dick, whose trey with 14:29 gave Kansas the lead forever.
Four Jayhawks scored 14 points or more, led by Jalen Wilson’s 21; he also grabbed 13 rebounds and a steal. Dajuan Harris scored 14 goals and distributed nine assists, committing only one turnover.
Kansas recorded only four turnovers the entire game. For that ball handling, plus their impressive comeback, the Jayhawks top Saturday’s biggest winners and losers list. That’s fitting, given the conference they’re attending.
BRACKETOLOGY: Kansas is the new No. 1 seed, and Kentucky falls within tournament camp
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LAWRENCE, KANSAS – FEBRUARY 18: Kansas’ Gradey Dick celebrates a field goal against Baylor during the second half of the game at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas on February 18, 2023.
Michigan and Michigan State
The final score might have read 84-72 in favor of Michigan, but make no mistake: There was no underdog in this matchup, one of the most heated rivalries in college sports.
Less than a week after a gunman opened fire on their campus and killed three students, the Spartans returned to court and gave a courageous performance in the street loss. There were reminders everywhere of what had just happened: Michigan players wore T-shirts that read, “Michigan basketball stands with MSU,” and thousands in the arena held up signs that read, “Spartan Strong.”
The story continues
Michigan State did not score in the final 2:29 of a game that featured nine lead changes and 11 ties, but the Spartans’ game was more about bringing together a grieving community in the wake of tragedy. At a vigil in honor of the victims Wednesday, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo delivered a moving speech in which he told those in attendance, “Let’s do a better job taking care of each other. We need each other’s ‘other”.
On Saturday, the Spartans and Wolverines did exactly that.
The Big 12
The NCAA selection committee previewed its top 16 seeds Saturday morning, sharing with viewers who would earn the top four seeds in each region if the tournament starts tomorrow. Alabama was the No. 1 seed overall, but the biggest winner was the Big 12, which had five teams that were seeded 3 or higher. The conference was led by Kansas, the expected 1 seed in the West Region (the defending champions, the Jayhawks, have been seeded 1 15 times).
The Big 12 has been the top conference in the country all season: It currently has six teams ranked in USA TODAY’s Sports Coaches Poll and could have as many as eight teams in the tournament. It will be a relief for these teams to see someone new in the NCAA Tournament, and given the strain of their regular season, don’t be surprised if many of them dance through March. Bottom line: These squads are battle-tested and exude toughness.
Are the Wildcats fed up with all the talk about being on the bubble or possibly losing the tournament altogether? It sure looks based on their #1 Tennessee Bombardment. 11 in Rupp Arena. Considering how each team played, you’d never know that Tennessee knocked out No. 1 Alabama earlier this week.
Four Kentucky players scored in double figures and the Wildcats hounded the Vols defensively, forcing Tennessee into a bad shooting night as they outscored them, 40-32. This is one way to get back into the good graces of the selection committee. At least on Saturday, Kentucky absolutely passed its eyesight test and looked like a team that belongs in the NCAA Tournament. Can the Wildcats continue like this?
The #15 Hoosiers completed a comeback against troublesome Illinois on Saturday, using the final 13 minutes to rally from a 48-39 deficit. Two free throws by Jalen Hood-Schifino with 30 seconds left gave Indiana the lead and ultimately a 71–68 victory. The win marked Indiana’s 15th straight victory at home.
Additionally, Trayce Jackson-Davis scored 26 points for the Hoosiers, moving to No. 5 all-time and passing coach Mike Woodson on the school’s all-time scoring list. He also grabbed 12 rebounds.
state of Kansas
Talk about an impressive comeback win. Trailing by eight at halftime, No. 14 KSU turned 15 Iowa State turnovers into 19 points, coming back to beat the No. 2 Cyclones. Shooting 44% from the field, 45.5% from 3 and 91.7% from the line in the second half definitely helped things. Markquis Nowell led KSU with 20 points, six rebounds and five assists.
The Boilermakers no. 3 have lost three of their last four, but their resume is still very impressive, which the selection committee acknowledged on Saturday by awarding them the No. 3 seed. Maybe that will give Purdue a confidence boost as it Sunday morning at 1 PM ET against Ohio State (11-15, 3-12 Big Ten).
Many people make too many assumptions when a team loses a conference game to an unranked or lower-ranked opponent. While frustrating, these leaks can often be exaggerated because no one is watching you as well as your conference.
That said, the Vols looked all out of place in Lexington on Saturday, losing 66-54 when they shot an abysmal 37.3% from the field and 22.2% from 3. They were also brutal from the foul line, hitting just 28 .6% of their attempts.
Tennessee could have lost by just 12, but the final score was deceptive: The Wildcats led by double digits for the entire game and probably could have won by 30 if they wanted to. It is the first time Tennessee has been swept by Kentucky during the regular season since 2011-12.
What a miserable last year for longtime head coach Mike Brey. The Irish lost 57-55 to No. 6 Virginia on Saturday, the team’s fifth straight road loss by five points or fewer. Notre Dame’s Dane Goodwin got a good look at a potential game winner, but his open 3 was miss. The Irish are just 10-17 overall and a heartbreaking 0-8 away.
Trailing 85-83, the Sooners had a chance to tear down #5 Texas in Austin after the Longhorns missed one of two free throws with 6.8 seconds left in overtime, but Sam Godwin failed to convert one close look and the Sooners lost . You don’t get many opportunities to knock out a top-five team, and it would have done wonders for the Sooners’ confidence, as OU ranks last in the Big 12.
One week after beating Kentucky 75-68, Georgia was smoked by No. 1 Alabama, 108-59 (yes, you read the score correctly). The Bulldogs let the Tide shoot 62% from the field and 47% from 3 and were beaten 49-26. Georgia was beaten in every aspect of the game and the final stat sheet wasn’t pretty. Maybe Kirby Smart can handle basketball recruiting too?
This article originally appeared in USA TODAY: Kansas, Big 12 Highlights Men’s College Basketball’s Biggest Winners