All about the Big 12: Kansas, Missouri meet for title

We’re heading into the final two weeks of the regular season, so our conference breakdowns are going to change up a bit this week.

Thomas Robinson and Kansas aim to lock up another league title when Missouri visits.
(US Presswire)

We’ll take a closer look at the teams still in the hunt for the regular-season conference title. We’ll also take our regular look at the three best games in the league in the next week, hot and cold players, good wins and bad losses in the past week and an interesting statistic.

Who will it be, KU or Mizzou?

Kansas is 13-2 in the league and owns a one-game lead over Missouri (12-3). Baylor is 10-5 and technically still alive. Technically.

Baylor: The Bears have to win out against Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Iowa State and get a ton of help from opponents of Kansas and Missouri. Far more likely than a league title is a third-place finish.

Kansas: It basically comes down to Saturday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse, when Missouri comes in for the last time for the foreseeable future. A KU win basically would lock up the regular-season title. A loss? That would be great news for Mizzou, which would own a season sweep of the Jayhawks and have the inside track to the crown.

Missouri: Let’s talk about that potential season sweep. In a rivalry as nasty as KU-Mizzou, that Tigers fans could brag about that in perpetuity (or whatever counts as perpetuity in today’s college athletics) has to bring a smile to anyone even remotely connected to Mizzou. A loss, though, and second place beckons.

The pick: Kansas. Kansas still has to be kicking itself for losing at Missouri. The atmosphere and intensity Saturday is going to be beyond belief. If KU gets good production from big men Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey, it will win, no matter how well Mizzou’s guards perform.

[Video: Will NCAA tournament bubble pop for Texas?]

Top 3 games this week

Iowa State at Kansas State, Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Big 12 syndication/Altitude/ESPN FullCourt: The Cyclones edged the Wildcats by two in Ames on Jan. 31. K-State looks to return the favor in a matchup of teams that look to be safely in the NCAA field. A win, though, would further strengthen the NCAA resume.

Missouri at Kansas, Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS: This is huge, and not just because KU basically can lock up the league title. This might be the nation’s nastiest basketball rivalry and it could be the last meeting for the foreseeable future (unless the teams meet in the league tourney) because Mizzou is leaving for the SEC. The Tigers won the first meeting this season, storming back from a late deficit to beat the Jayhawks three on Feb. 4 in Columbia. It’s too bad this isn’t the regular-season finale.

Iowa State at Missouri, Wednesday, 8 p.m., Big 12 syndication/Altitude2/YES network/ESPN FullCourt: This is part of a tough closing stretch for the Cyclones, who have K-State on Saturday, this game on Wednesday and Baylor on March 3. Mizzou beat the Cyclones by seven in Ames on Jan. 11.

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Rodney McGruder led Kansas State to another upset of Missouri.
(US Presswire)

Who’s hot?

Kansas State G Rodney McGruder: He was perhaps the main reason K-State won back-to-back road games over Baylor and Missouri. McGruder averaged 19.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.0 steals in the wins; he hit 13-of-25 shots from the field (52.0 percent), including 5-of-8 from 3-point range (62.5 percent), in the two games.

Baylor F Quincy Acy: He is averaging 18.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 steals, and shooting 57.1 percent from the field in his past two games.

Oklahoma State G Keiton Page: Page has averaged 29.7 points over the past three games, including a 40-point outing in a win over Texas in which he was 20-of-20 from the line. He shot 49.1 percent from the field, including 47.2 percent from 3-point range.

[Forde Minutes: Teams rising, falling as March nears]

Who’s not?

Missouri F Ricardo Ratliffe: He is shooting 71.7 percent from the floor for the season, but despite that gaudy number, he has been – for him, at least – ice cold of late. Ratliffe has hit just 46.6 percent of his shots in the past four games, including back-to-back games of less than 43 percent. He averaged 8.5 points in those contests, down from his season average of 13.5.

Texas G Julien Lewis: Lewis hasn’t contributed much offensively of late. In the past six games, he has scored 27 points and shot just 10-of-35 from the field (28.6 percent), including 2-of-12 from 3-point range.

Baylor F Perry Jones III: He has scored just 41 points in the past five games, and 18 of those came in one game. He was 16-of-53 from the floor in that span (an embarrassing 30.2 percent).

Good win last week

Kansas State 78, Missouri 68. K-State finished off the season sweep of the Tigers with this stunner at Mizzou. The victory all but locks up an NCAA at-large bid for the Wildcats.

Bad loss last week

Baylor 77, Texas 72. It’s not a “bad loss” in the sense of the opponent is lacking. Rather, it’s a bad loss in that Texas desperately needed a marquee win to boost its NCAA tourney hopes but couldn’t pull it out. Texas was the better team for about 32 minutes; alas, the game lasted 40.

Numbers game

Kansas State has won back-to-back road games against top-10 opponents for the first time in school history. K-State won at Missouri on Tuesday night, three days after winning at Baylor. In addition, it was the Wildcats’ first win at Mizzou since Jan. 13, 2007.

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Mike Huguenin is a Yahoo! Sports college sports editor. Send Mike a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Thursday, Feb 23, 2012