Kansas City, MO (SportsNetwork.com) - The semifinal round of the Big 12 Conference Tournament kicks off Friday with a matchup featuring the 16th- ranked and fourth-seeded Baylor Bears taking on the ninth-ranked and top- seeded Kansas Jayhawks at Sprint Center.
The winner moves on to the conference title game Saturday, with the league championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line.
Baylor was in action Thursday afternoon, and defeated fifth-seeded West Virginia, 80-70, in the quarterfinal round to advance to Friday's contest. The Bears are looking to get back to the Big 12 championship, where they lost last season to Iowa State, 74-65.
Kansas got a bit of a scare from TCU on Thursday in the quarterfinal round of the Big 12 Tournament, as the Horned Frogs stayed right on the heels of the Jayhawks in Kansas' 64-59 victory. It was the third win in the last four games for Kansas.
The Bears and the Jayhawks clashed twice during the regular season, and neither outcome favored Baylor. Kansas took a 56-55 decision in Waco early in January, and then won in a 74-64 bout in Lawrenceville on Feb. 14.
Four players for Baylor scored in double figures Thursday to help lead the Bears past West Virginia in the quarterfinal round. Taurean Prince netted 18 to pace the squad, while Royce O'Neale added 16 and Rico Gathers chipped in 15 with nine rebounds. Lester Medford contributed 10 points in the win for the Bears, who beat the Mountaineers for the third time this season.
Prince entered the tournament leading the team in scoring at 14.2 ppg, connecting on 48.2 percent of his shots from the floor. As a unit, Baylor averaged an even 70.0 ppg, and held opponents to just 60.3 ppg defensively entering the conference postseason. The Bears have yet to win a conference crown, and have been defeated in the title game two of the last three years. In the team's most recent clash against Kansas, back on Feb. 14, the Bears shot just 37.5 percent from the floor and were led by Gathers's 18-point outing. Kansas picked up the 10-point win in Lawrenceville.
Kelly Oubre Jr. netted 25 points and grabbed six rebounds to lead the Jayhawks past TCU on Thursday in a tightly contested race to the finish. Landen Lucas chipped in with 13 points and seven boards, as Kansas hit on 48.9 percent of its shots from the floor in the win. Defensively, Kansas made sure the Horned Frogs could only connect on 1-of-6 from 3-point range.
The Jayhawks were without two of their better players on Thursday, and it's unclear as to the status of at least one of them heading into Friday. Perry Ellis sat out with a sprained right knee, while Wayne Selden Jr. (sprained ankle) did suit up. In the Jayhawks' 74-64 victory over the Bears back in February, Ellis and Oubre led the team with 18 points and six boards apiece, so Ellis' status is certainly key going forward.