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West Virginia at Baylor Preview and Prediction

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Baylor looks to win six in a row

NCAA Basketball: Baylor at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Baylor (17-10, 7-7) takes on West Virginia (19-8, 8-6) at 6:00 on Tuesday in the Ferrell Center. The game airs on ESPN2.

The Bears have won five straight games, but they have not locked up a tournament berth. Adding another quadrant one or quadrant two victory (West Virginia is near the cutoff for being a quadrant one victory), would provide a nice boost for Baylor’s resume.

West Virginia is coming off a tough loss to Kansas. Bob Huggins was thrown out of the game because he was upset Kansas shot 29 free throws (they shot six after), while West Virginia shot only two.

As always, we’ll take a look at playing offense against the opponent, then turn to defense. Finally, we’ll close with a prediction.

Offense:

Baylor had an awful offensive day in Morgantown. The Bears scored just .82 points per possession (PPP), which is well below the .87 PPP that the worst offense in America averages.

The Bears had two big offensive problems in Morgantown. First, they shot terribly inside the arc. The Bears went just 11-of-32 on 2-point shots. The Mountaineers rank 27th in 2-point defense, so they can make teams miss. Baylor mixed in missing pretty good looks and struggling against West Virginia’s length:

Sagaba Konate was a big problem for the Bears. He blocked seven shots. West Virginia is 10th nationally in block rate. The Bears got Terry Maston open out of the awesome play/rip set. Konate made a fantastic block that led to a West Virginia 3-point make in transition:

Second, Baylor had way too many turnovers. Press Virginia ranks second in turnover rate, forcing opponent turnovers on 24.4% of possessions. Unfortunately, Baylor turned it over 21 times or 32% of their possessions. The Bears big problem was that they got too sped up in round one. Baylor wanted easy opportunities at the rim and in transition before the Mountaineers set up their defense. But the Bears don’t usually play that fast. They had some awful turnovers:

The Mountaineers have two big weaknesses. First, they struggle to defensive rebound, giving up an offensive rebound on 30% of opponent misses. Baylor grabbed an offensive rebound on 34% of their misses in the first contest, but Baylor’s a very good offensive rebounding team. And they played big against West Virginia. If Baylor stays big for most of this game (like I expect), then they need to grab more than 34% of their misses.

Second, West Virginia fouls a ton. They get right into the jersey of opponents and go for steals. They push the limits of verticality and bump into the offense when hard hedging and trapping ball screens. The Mountaineers only had 20 fouls in the first game. Baylor needs to draw more fouls in this one. Jumping out when West Virginia hard hedges is key. And if it turns out the officials are calling a loose game, then I’d get aggressive under the hoop holding onto guys and start bumping out a bit on stagger screens and down screens. Officiating can radically change how a West Virginia game goes. Baylor needs to adjust based on how it’s being called.

Surprisingly, Baylor shot well from three in the first game. Most of Baylor’s losses during the stretch that led to a 2-7 start to Big 12 play revolved around missing triples. Baylor was shooting just 25% from deep after nine conference games. But Baylor went 8-of-21 in the first game. West Virginia will give up open threes. Opponents are taking 39% of their shots from the perimeter against West Virginia. If Jake Lindsey’s making passes like this out of double teams, then Manu Lecomte needs to keep draining shots:

Terry Maston did not play well in Morgantown. He finished a team worst -12. But he’s been an absolute monster and appears to be fully recovered from breaking his hand earlier in the season. Maston’s problems against West Virginia are that the Mountaineers send double teams well and are solid post defenders. They flop/sell contact well and block shots as well as anybody. But with how well Maston has played, the Bears are going to give him a chance to show he’s capable of scoring against the Mountaineers. If that fails, they might go small to have a better shot of defeating the press.

Defense:

Baylor did a pretty nice job defensively in Morgantown. West Virginia scored just .86 PPP. The Mountaineers went 9-of-36 from inside the arc, as Baylor’s zone shifted well inside. Jo Lual-Acuil had five blocks, and other Bears made it tough for West Virginia to score inside.

West Virginia did very well taking and making 3-point shots against Baylor. They went 10-of-25 from deep. With Baylor ready to contest shots at the rim, and Baylor’s weak-side guards focused on offering help on a big man diving to the hoop, West Virginia managed to get open looks on the weak-side:

While playing zone, Baylor has to be careful when West Virginia’s guards cut across the nail. This was a variation of how TCU got so many open looks in Waco. Below, Lecomte is ready to offer some resistance if West Virginia passes to the nail. That leaves Lual-Acuil in a tough spot to choose whether he needs to stay close to offer help Lecomte will need or if he needs to race to the 3-point line. Baylor’s got to get this fixed for round two:

The Mountaineers are excellent at offensive rebounding. They rank 4th nationally in that stat. But Baylor held them to just 13 offensive rebounds. The Bears can live with that number against a team this good on the offensive glass. Baylor missed a few box out chances, but against a team that plays so fast and physical, that’s inevitable. Baylor needs to defend the perimeter better. Other than that, the defensive did well.

Prediction:

This is a tough game for Baylor. The Bears turn it over too much and the Mountaineers turn everyone over too much. They have the ability to play Maston off the floor, and when they get hot from three, they’re nearly unbeatable.

KenPom gives Baylor a 53% chance to win and has the Bears winning by a point. I’m guessing the Bears will open as a slight favorite in Vegas.

I would not be shocked by any result in this game. But I think Maston hits a few shots when he plays, and the Mountaineers have a mediocre shooting day. Add in Mark Vital’s intensity on defense, and I think Baylor wins 68-63.

Season Prediction Record: 23-4

Record Against the Spread: 12-7