|The play of Pierre Jackson could be the key to Baylor getting a win on Friday at Gonzaga. (US Presswire)|
Most of the Big 12 is playing a slate of nobodies this weekend, but there are two games worth watching.
Baylor at Gonzaga
Game time: Friday, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Why we're watching: Gonzaga (11-1) has beat up on the Big 12 thus far, knocking off West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kansas State by a combined 75 points, but the Zags have yet to play a Big 12 team as talented as Baylor. The Bears (8-3) have probably underachieved more than any other Big 12 team, but they do have one of the conference's best wins, knocking off Kentucky at Rupp Arena. The Bears didn't look great that day, but they used a 2-3 zone to bait Kentucky into taking bad shots, a trap that a veteran Gonzaga team is not likely to fall into. This is Baylor's final non-conference game before the Big 12 schedule begins and an opportunity to start the conference season with some confidence.
Key to the game: Gonzaga's one loss came to Illinois and talented guard Brandon Paul, who went off for 35 points in an 85-74 win. Paul dominated the ball and the Illini set a lot of ball screens to try to free him for good looks or drives to the basket. Baylor could use the same strategy with point guard Pierre Jackson, who averages 19 points and 6.3 assists per game. Jackson and big man Cory Jefferson have been effective in the pick-and-roll game this season. The Bears can give the Bulldogs another look by using Isaiah Austin in a pick-and-pop game, pulling Gonzaga's big men away from the basket. For Baylor to win, Jackson will need to create for his teammates and also knock down his perimeter shots. In Baylor's three losses, Jackson has gone 1 of 8, 2 of 7 and 1 of 6 from beyond the 3-point line. Paul made 5 of 9 threes against the Zags. If Jackson shoots like that, Baylor should have a chance.
Ohio at Oklahoma
Game time: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET (SSTV)
Why we're watching: Ohio coach Jim Christian made an odd move this off-season when he bolted Big 12-bound TCU to take over for John Groce after he took the Illinois job. Take a look at the rosters of each team and that's when it began to make sense. TCU is destined to live in the Big 12's basement. The Bobcats (8-4) have one of the best backcourts in the country with seniors D.J. Cooper and Walter Offutt, a duo that took them to the Sweet 16 last season where they nearly knocked off North Carolina. So far this season Ohio is looking similar to last year's team at home, where they're 8-1, but they have struggled on the road, going winless in three tries (at Robert Morris, at Memphis and at Massachusetts).
The Sooners (7-3) have been a hard team to figure out thus far. They have the pieces to finish in the top-half of a watered-down Big 12, but just when they started to impress with a 10-point win against Texas A&M, they followed that up with loss at home to Stephen F. Austin. A win against Ohio could turn out to be a decent resume-builder.
Key to the game: If Oklahoma has an advantage, it is inside with Romero Osby (12.7 ppg) and Amath M'Baye (8.8 ppg). M'Baye, a transfer from Wyoming, scored in double-figures in four of Oklahoma's first eight games, including 19 points in a win against West Virginia. For some reason, M'Baye has quit shooting the last two games. He went scoreless against Texas A&M and scored three points against Stephen F. Austin. M'Baye took only five shots in those two games. Getting the ball to the post might not be so easy for freshman guards Isaiah Cousins and Je'lon Hornbeak, who will have to deal with Ohio's gambling guards. The Bobcats are forcing turnovers on 29 percent of opponents' possessions. For Oklahoma to win, Cousins and Hornbeak will need to deal with the pressure and get M'Baye and Osby their touches.
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from Big 12 bloggers C.J. Moore and Patrick Southern, follow @CBSSportsBig12 on Twitter. You can also follow C.J. (@cjmoore4) and Patrick (@patricksouthern).