Originally Published: January 20, 2012

No. 5 Missouri (17-1) at No. 3 Baylor (17-1)

By Jay Bilas

When and where: Saturday (ESPN, 2 p.m. ET), Ferrell Center (Waco, Texas)

Missouri: The Tigers might have the quickest lineup in college basketball. Frank Haith's guards have been very efficient and have made much better decisions on offense and defense this season. Missouri can still fall into some "chuck and duck" habits, which worked well under Mike Anderson but do not fit with the style favored by Haith.

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Jeff Moffett/Icon SMIMarcus Denmon is averaging 17.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game for Missouri.

The Tigers run a set-play, quick-hitting offense that features four guards around undersized big man Ricardo Ratliffe. Point guard Phil Pressey is almost impossible to stay in front of, and he is an elite passer who willingly gives up the ball. Pressey has a near 3-to-1 assists-to-turnover ratio and leads the team in steals with 37. The wings are among the best in the nation, with All-America candidate Marcus Denmon and the ridiculously efficient Kim English. English's transformation has been remarkable. Last season, his confidence was waning. This season, he seemingly cannot miss. His decisions have improved, and he is hitting more than 50 percent of his 3-point shots. Ratliffe is benefiting from single coverage in the post and the drop-offs from his teammates and is shooting better than 77 percent from the field. The season record is 74 percent, by Oregon State's Steve Johnson back when Ralph Miller was the Beavers' coach.

Baylor: The Bears are big, long, athletic and deep along the front line, and they have one of the most talented frontcourts in the country. Perry Jones III, Quincy Acy, Quincy Miller, Anthony Jones and Cory Jefferson provide the bodies and length to overwhelm a smaller team on the glass and the defensive end.

Before the season, I was one who questioned the Baylor guards and whether the Bears would be able to improve ball security. Last season, Baylor turned the ball over at a very high rate. Turnovers are still an issue, but this team is much better with the ball. Guards Brady Heslip, A.J. Walton and Pierre Jackson are far better than I anticipated, and Jackson is a game-changing talent. He has the ability to guard the ball, see the floor with terrific vision and play with a fearlessness that allows his teammates to do their jobs without worrying about his.

Key players: Denmon and Jackson. Denmon scratches in just about every category for the Tigers and is an attack guard. He excels in transition, and Baylor can afford to put Walton, Jackson or a defender with more size on him. Denmon is a very good defender but might have some issues matching up with bigger Baylor players. Jackson is incredibly strong and athletic, and has the ability to guard Pressey and Denmon. If he can stay out of foul difficulty, Jackson has the ability to change the game with his pressure and steals. On the offensive end, Jackson is a potent scorer, but he is also a fabulous passer. He will get a lob dunk from deep for a teammate; you can bank on it. However, he also has 64 turnovers to go with his 98 assists.

Key shooters: Heslip and English. Heslip transferred from Boston College and has a really quick release. He has hit 51 3s, by far the most on the Baylor roster, and is shooting 47 percent from 3. English is shooting better than 50 percent from deep, and his stroke is pure. He has hit 45 3s in only 88 attempts.

Key bigs: Ratliffe and Perry Jones. Ratliffe plays off his guards very well but must avoid fouls to be able to stay in the game. Without Ratliffe, Missouri can get overwhelmed on the glass. Jones is a special talent. He needs to be assertive and dominate his matchup. No player on the Missouri roster can guard him.

Key stats: Turnovers and rebounding. Baylor should own the backboards but also has to get to long rebounds, which will be an issue in this game. Baylor turned the ball over against the pressure of Kansas and needs to take care of the ball against the pressure brought by Missouri. Pressey's initial ball pressure will be key.

Who wins: Baylor is coming off a loss and playing at home. How the Bears guard the 3-point line will go a long way in determining this one. Expect Baylor to play some man-to-man in addition to some zone. If the Bears take good shots and limit Missouri in transition, I like the Bears to win. Baylor 74-70.

More Games To Track

By Andy Katz

Alabama at No. 2 Kentucky (noon ET): The Tide couldn't have picked a worse time to head to Rupp Arena. Alabama looked awful in the home loss to Vanderbilt. The Tide didn't rebound well and couldn't defend the 3-point shot. That could lead to misery at Kentucky if Alabama doesn't shore up its usual solid defense.

Xavier at Dayton (ESPN2, 1 p.m. ET): This is one of the most underrated in-conference rivalries. The Flyers are tied with the Musketeers atop the A-10 with one loss each. Dayton has proved it can hang with anyone in the league, even in a first-year rebuilding situation under Archie Miller. A Dayton win would do wonders for a possible title.

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Rick Osentoski/US PresswireTrey Burke and Michigan will face a tough road test at Arkansas.
No. 19 Michigan at Arkansas (2 p.m. ET): This was my upset pick of the week, even before Michigan beat Michigan State. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. certainly can run with the Hogs. But winning at Bud Walton Arena is now a tough chore for any team. Mike Anderson should have the place rocking.

Cincinnati at West Virginia (ESPNU, 3 p.m. ET): UC coach Mick Cronin said the worst thing in coaching is having to play a Bob Huggins-coached team after a loss. He was praying for a win by West Virginia over Marshall. The Mountaineers delivered. The Bearcats are in the middle of a brutal four-game trek but are off to a great start with a win at Connecticut. The Bearcats will have to defend Kevin Jones exceptionally well, and that means Yancy Gates has to work the weakside boards. The Bearcats host Syracuse on Monday. Regardless of what happens here, it shouldn't affect the Bearcats' chances of upsetting SU.

Florida State at No. 4 Duke (ESPN, 4 p.m. ET): Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said he would know the team's ceiling a bit better after this week when the Seminoles played Maryland and went to Duke. Well, Florida State beat Maryland and now heads to Duke with exceptional confidence. But this is Cameron, after all. If the Seminoles can push Duke, then they can claim they're here to stay for the rest of the ACC race.

No. 6 Ohio State at Nebraska (8 p.m. ET): Can the Huskers knock off Ohio State as well as Indiana? Probably not. This isn't the same team. But Ohio State might get an ugly game out of the trip to Lincoln. Nebraska earned plenty of respect in the Big Ten by nearly taking out Wisconsin and then getting Indiana at home.

For the rest of Andy Katz's games to watch this weekend, click here.


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