Baylor’s two-game skid a testament to conference strength

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Missouri senior forward Ricardo Ratliffe pulls down a rebound against Texas A&M. One of the Tigers’ seven scholarship players, earned Big 12 Player of the Week honors after a 27-point effort against Baylor.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

The No. 7 Baylor Bears began the season playing at a top-tier level. They won 17 games in a row and looked well on their way to being the outright frontrunner’s for the conference crown, until consecutive losses to No. 5 Kansas and No. 2 Missouri derailed that route.

Baylor head coach Scott Drew believes his team’s problems are solvable, but it will naturally be tough given the conference’s surprising strength this year.

“I think offensively we’ve been very good in both games,” Drew said. “But we have not guarded and rebounded like we have previously. But in the Big 12 you’ve got to give credit to everyone and I don’t think anyone has been able to figure out what Missouri is doing offensively.”

Baylor isn’t a particularly high-scoring team, but the Bears run an efficient offense based on high percentage shots. They shoot the ninth best field goal percentage in the nation. However, Baylor already ranks 62nd in rebounding, pulling down more than 37 a game, but couldn’t snag nearly that many boards in its last two contests.

Missouri’s limited roster not an issue

The Tigers, on the other hand, have yet to show signs of weakness. Though Missouri has lost one game, its offense is playing at such a high level that is only getting better, and the Tigers have forward Ricardo Ratliffe to thank.

Ratliffe averages almost 15 points a game and scored a team-high 27 against Baylor last weekend. His performance earned him Big 12 Player of the Week honors.

“I think the neat thing about Ricardo being big guy is that he moves well,” Missouri head coach Frank Haith said. “A lot of our ball screen stuff puts him in different angles. His low post-presence is still a factor.”

The Tigers like to pound the ball through Ratliffe and their other bigs, which has some beginning to wonder if the team is built to last in the grueling tournament phases of the season. There are only seven members on the active roster.

“We got to keep our guys fresh, but we also have to keep our guys on par with what we are doing,” Haith said. “It is a process, we are focusing on. With only seven guys and the minutes they are playing, I think we’ve done a good job.”

Kansas State’s confidence peaking

The No. 24 Wildcats are back in the national rankings after falling out of favor with the pollsters when they lost to Baylor and Oklahoma over a week ago. They’ve since rattled off two wins against Texas and Oklahoma State, and head coach Frank Martin attributes his young team’s reemergence to a change in attitude.

“Our enthusiasm for who we are is getting back to where it needs to be,” Martin said. “Our young kids are starting to get that enthusiasm and confidence back a little. And that is our job as coaches. I think we as coaches have done a better job of getting those guys back on task.”

That enthusiasm may translate into another easy win over Texas Tech tomorrow. The Red Raiders have yet to win a conference game, but Martin is not overlooking them.

“I don’t see us not getting Texas Tech’s best shot,” he said. “I watched them play Kansas on tape, and Kansas got away from them in the second half, but that first half was a meat grinder of a game. I mean, they guarded, they rebounded, they attacked Kansas.”