Baylor spoils Border War rubber match, gets signature victory

Since rivals Kansas and Missouri appeared destined for one final showdown in Saturday's Big 12 title game, tickets for that matchup have been selling for as much as $500 on the secondary market.

Expect those prices to drop drastically now.

Baylor denied the Border War one final stay of execution on Friday night when it stunned top-seeded Kansas 81-72 in Kansas City. This was no fluke either considering the Bears led for all but one minute of the final 34:41, even withstanding a 15-3 Kansas run that trimmed the lead to one midway through the second half.

What was noteworthy about the victory for Baylor (27-6, 12-6) wasn't its impact on the Bears' NCAA tournament seeding. They were a No. 3 seed Friday morning, they're likely a No. 3 seed now and even if they topple Texas or Missouri in Saturday's title game, the best they could hope for is to sneak into the final No. 2 seed.

[ Related: Bracket Big Board: Despite loss, Texas will make tourney ]

No, the real impact of what Baylor accomplished Friday night is psychological. It eliminates the seeds of doubt planted during the Big 12 regular season when a Bears team projected to win the league instead went 0-for-4 against top dogs Kansas and Missouri on its way to a pedestrian 12-6 fourth-place finish.

Nobody has ever questioned whether Baylor had the talent to compete with the nation's elite teams this season, but on Friday the Bears showed flashes of the resilience, heart and savvy necessary for a deep March run.

Scott Drew, often maligned for his coaching decisions, made the wise choice to switch to man-to-man defense after the Jayhawks shredded his trademark two-three zone in two regular season meetings. Perry Jones III, often criticized for shrinking from big moments, played like the future lottery pick he's projected to be, posting 18 points and seven boards. And Brady Heslip, often overlooked amid Baylor's array of formidable athletes, buried four threes including back-to-back daggers in the final 2 1/2 minutes to quell Kansas' final rally and extend the Bears' lead to seven.

If the impact of Friday's game is mostly mental for Baylor, there's a more tangible effect for Kansas.

A Big 12 tournament title would have all but wrapped up a No. 1 seed for the Jayhawks, but there's a good chance they'll now slip to a No. 2. Co-Big Ten champs Michigan State or Ohio State would have a chance at the final No. 1 if either wins their conference tournament, as would Missouri if it defeats Texas and Baylor in Kansas City.

Fans who already spent hundreds of dollars on tickets to Saturday's title game hoping to see Kansas face Missouri will probably be disappointed at the sight of Baylor's array of garish jerseys.

That color scheme is fitting, however. Neon jerseys for a team that perhaps has a brighter March outlook than many thought before Friday night.

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