No. 19 Baylor (17-5, 5-4) at No. 15 West Virginia (18-4, 6-3)
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It's the morning, and I still haven't had coffee yet, so there won't be too much of a preview here today. I'll fill you in on the big picture stuff. You should also check out the latest Know Thine Enemy Q&A about the Mountaineers.
West Virginia leads the country in steal rate and opponent turnover rate. In Big 12 play alone, they have forced turnovers on 28% of opponents' possessions. Yipes. Kenny Chery and Lester Medford will have their hands full trying to bring the ball up the court. I would imagine that Taurean Prince and Royce O'Neale will be the release valve most of the time, standing just short of half court to receive the pass when either of the guards get trapped. Johnathan Motley will be a target for such passes, as well.
Some good news is that the Mountaineers seem to have misaligned the sights on their muskets this season. They are shooting just 27.4% from three. If they continue to struggle with their outside shot, the Bears can just sit back in their zone, block up driving lanes, prevent the ball from getting into the high post where a player like Devin Williams can facilitate. Juwan Staten is the star of the team - not to mention the pre-season Big 12 Player of the Year. If Baylor can limit him the way it did Kyan Anderson, that will go a long way in shutting down the WVU offense.
1.) Limiting WVU's transition opportunities: almost 22% of their FGAs have come in transition this season, per HoopMath. If Baylor can avoid live ball turnovers, they can take away a massive part of the West Virginia offense.
2.) Pack the three point shot: Baylor has struggled to shoot well from deep on the road. Hopefully they remembered to bring their three point shooting with them to Morgantown.
3.) Free throws, make them: Baylor has been better at this in recent games. WVU fouls a ton (their opponent FTA/FGA is a stunningly high 67.8%). The Bears will be at the line frequently. Let's hope they make those visits count.
West Virginia is a -3.5 favorite, but KenPom projects a 69-67 Mountaineer win with a 42% chance of the Bears winning. By all accounts, this will be a close game. I fear that Baylor turns the ball over too much and can't hit enough threes to make up for those mistakes. Baylor 64 - West Virginia 70