No. 19 Baylor (21-7, 9-6) vs. No. 20 West Virginia (22-6, 10-5)
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Apologies for the absence of a Q&A for before the game. Just didn't happen this time.
A Quick Comparison
So, let's play a little game. Here are four stat lines of current or recent Big 12 players:
Player A: 31.0 mpg 16.9 ppg 5.1 rpg 1.9 apg 1.5 spg on .429/.791/.377 splits
Player B: 33.5 mpg 15.4 ppg 5.8 rpg 4.2 apg 3.0 spg on .404/.777/.290 splits
Player C: 32.1 mpg 17.8 ppg 8.4 rpg 1.8 apg 1.2 spg on .505/.761/.346 splits
Player D: 25.5 mpg 13.3 ppg 5.5 rpg 1.3 apg 1.4 spg on .468/.598/.398 splits
Two of those players are former Big 12 Player of the Year. The other two are leading candidates for the award this season. Can you figure out who is who? Take a second to think about it. Alright, ready? Here are the names and seasons:
Player A: Buddy Hield 2014-15
Player B: Marcus Smart 2012-13
Player C: Melvin Ejim 2013-14
Player D: Taurean Prince 2014-15
Given that Prince is playing 6 to 8 fewer minutes per game, his stats hold up pretty well among that group. His only obvious lack is in free throw percentage. Otherwise, it's not tough to imagine that Prince would be putting up comparable stats to the other three if he were given more minutes.
If you want to bring team success into it as well, OU is currently 19-8 and 2nd in conference; OSU was 24-9 and 3rd in conference; ISU was 28-8 and 3rd in conference; and Baylor is 21-7 and 5th in the conference. ISU is the clear standout by record, but Baylor has a chance to finish as well as OSU did in 2013, and even to catch OU before season's end. It helps that Baylor will be facing West Virginia at home today. WVU is only 1 game ahead of Baylor in the standings, so a win would vault the Bears over the 'Eers and into the top 4 with 2 games left and a tie-breaker over ISU. There is still a lot of shuffling left for the Big 12 at the top, so this last week of basketball should be full of excitement.
Point is, Taurean Prince, who is 3rd in the KenPom Big 12 PoY rankings, deserves to be included in the conversation of being one of the best Big 12 players this season, not just the best 6th man.
As I was writing this, news broke that Juwan Staten will be out for West Virginia today with a knee injury. That's devastating for Bob Huggins and his team. Staten, the preseason Big 12 PoY, is averaging 14.5 points and 4.6 assists per game in 31 minutes. He's the leader of that team and is frequently the only one who can get the offense going. Baylor shut him down in Morgantown, but with him out, that will free Baylor's defense to focus on other players, such as Devin Williams and Jevon Carter. Baylor was already a -4.5 favorite when Staten was assumed to be playing. This will be an uphill battle for WVU.
1.) Limiting liveball turnovers
2.) Defensive rebounding
3.) Making free throws
Without Staten, it's tough to imagine WVU scoring much today. Carter, Jaysean Paige, Gary Browne, and Daxter Miles will have to come up big from deep to keep their team hanging around. If West Virginia goes 6-23 like they did last time against Baylor, they don't have a good chance. Rico Gathers, who had an okay game in Ames but was benched in the last few minutes, went 17 and 16 in the last matchup and should be properly motivated to do it again. WVU 59 -- Baylor 77.
If you're not in the Ferrell Center dressed in black, join us in the comments for the game!