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Baylor-West Virginia: Three Keys, How to Watch and Prediction

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Baylor looks to win the Big 12

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

No. 3 Baylor (18-1, 10-1) takes on No. 6 West Virginia (17-6, 10-4) at 4:00! today in Morgantown. The game airs on ESPN.

Baylor is a 4.5 point favorite on most books. The line has moved in Baylor’s favor.

With so many games this week, and some work I need to get done before going to Waco on Thursday, we’ll keep it shorter.

Three keys:

1) Hit threes- While this seems so obvious, “make shots!” it’s especially pronounced for Baylor. The Bears remain the country’s best 3-point shooting team after abysmal 32% and 23% shooting games from three last week. If the Bears shoot 40% or higher, I expect them to win today.

2) Make Derek Culver’s life difficult- Culver is better than David McCormack and will be the best scoring big man Baylor plays in the regular season. McCormack dropped 20 points on 10 shots. He often got deep post-position. Davion Mitchell did a nice job in the second half coming over for steals when McCormack got the ball; the Bears will need to pick a strategy that doesn’t let Culver score 30.

3) Defensive rebound better- Baylor’s going to be mediocre on the defensive glass. The Bears play for turnovers, so they will sometimes be at a disadvantage corralling boards. But there were multiple times on Saturday where Baylor failed to box out, and worse, had their heads turned completely away from any relevant defensive situation. West Virginia is No. 16 in offensive rebounding; they’ll scoop up some second chances. But the Mountaineers can’t eviscerate Baylor rebounding like Kansas did.

Prediction:

I’ve gone back and forth on this one. There’s a case Baylor just shot terribly the last two games, and that it’s not entirely COVID that explains it. You also would be foolish to think Jared Butler will have consecutive bad games.

It also seems fitting that Baylor will win the Big 12 at 4:00 on a Tuesday in a city that doesn’t feel like a Big 12 town (and I really enjoy Morgantown; it just doesn’t feel like a Big 12 city).

My concern is that I don’t know when Baylor will come back to looking like Baylor. I suspect it will be Thursday or Sunday. And in the interim, expecting Baylor to win a road game against West Virginia—a squad that’s only loss in its last seven games is in double overtime to Oklahoma—is a tough climb. I hope I’m wrong, but I think a strong game by Butler and Matthew Mayer isn’t quite enough. I’ll take West Virginia 72-66.