It's days like today that make the Big 12 the best basketball conference in America in my opinion. It's Big Monday. It's the top two teams in the conference. There's no holding back.
The Baylor Bears come in without a blemish on their record while the Kansas Jayhawks look to start conference play with a 5-0 record.
It'll be a great night in the Phog. More after the jump.Transition season? The Jayhawks (14-3) have successfully fought off that label thus far. We all know about the great year Thomas Robinson is having but two question marks coming into the season have since been stable forces on the team. Let's start with Jeff Withey. The seldom-used center who didn't do much in 2010-11 is now making the most of his starting spot this year, averaging 7.6 points, nearly six boards and is ranked tenth in the nation with over three blocks a game. I watched him swat six shots in Saturday's win against Iowa State in addition to a double-double.
The other is junior Travis Releford. Just last week, he won Big 12 Player of the Week honors while averaging a league-best 22 points per game. He's shooting 51.8% from the field this year and on the break is one of the quickest I've seen playing in the conference. The fact that these two guys who barely saw the floor and are now productive are proof positive that Bill Self may know more about basketball than anyone else on planet Earth.
The 2011-12 athletic year has been kind to the Baylor Bears (17-0). In addition to men's basketball, the Lady Bears are perfect themselves, a consensus #1 in the country and their football program has their first Heisman Trophy winner.
Despite all of that, history says the Bears are 2-16 all time vs KU including 0-9 at Phog Allen Fieldhouse. But this Baylor team is different than any other. An intriguing battle to look out for is how Robinson and Withey deal with Perry Jones III's athleticism and Quincy Acy's shotblocking ability. They've also been tested on the road, winning at BYU and at Kansas State so getting out of Lawrence with a win is quite possible. After the K-State win, I began wondering if Baylor can actually finish the regular season undefeated. Seriously. Sure it might be ridiculous to think that now only four games into Big 12 play but a win tonight will certainly get the debate going.
KU's playing great ball but I just can't find a reason why Baylor would falter in yet another big game. This Big Monday battle can be seen tonight at 8:30 central on ESPN.