Today’s game between your Baylor Bears (17-9, 8-5) and the West Virginia Mountaineers (10-16, 2-11) airs on ESPNU at 1PM central. If you’re into watching Baylor win basketball games by healthy margins, you are in the target demographic for this broadcast.
Baylor is broadly predicted to win running away. The Bears are 12 point favorites. The over/under suggests a score in the neighborhood of 75-63. West Virginia, which has averaged 62.9 points per game Big Twelve play, has failed to score more than 53 points in its last 4 games. Their average margin of defeat in those games was 23 points.
West Virginia is down four key contributors at this point in the season. Sagaba Konate and James “Beetle” Bolden are out due to injury, while Esa Ahmad and Wesley Harris were dismissed from the team for violation of rules about 10 days ago. It’s tough to imagine a team having a worse roster situation than Baylor (who last Saturday had only 8 active scholarship players), but Bob Huggins is living that nightmare.
Lamont West, a 6-8 junior forward, a Derek Culver, a 6-10 freshman forward, are now West Virginia’s leading scorers. They combined for 27 points in a 14-point loss to Kansas State in Morgantown on Monday and were the only two Mountaineers to get to the free throw line. Freddie Gillespie (6.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.3 block in conference) and Flo Thamba, (2.5 points, 2.8 rebounds in conference while averaging only 12.8 minutes) will be largely responsible for stymieing those two. As long as the Bears have good team rebounding on the defensive end, West Virginia has very little shot at pulling the upset.
Makai Mason (15.5 points, 3.2 assists), barring another last minute announcement, will continue working his way back into form after an important but inefficient showing against Iowa State on Monday. Senior guard King McClure is still out with a toe injury, but Baylor should be okay today without him. Per Baylor’s pre-game notes, Mason and Mario Kegler combined to go 13-for-13 on 2-point field goals last time these teams met, scoring 47 points between them. Jared Butler (11.4 points, 3.8 assists, 45% 3PT in conference) has only gotten better as the season has gone along. Devonte Bandoo (44.6% 3PT in conference) has found his shooting stroke. Given the depleted state of West Virginia’s roster in both the back and front courts, the Bears should have little trouble finding offense.
Kendall predicted Baylor to win by 20 in his preview, and I feel similarly. Let’s call it 78-60 for the Bears.