With an NCAA tournament bid all but officially secured, the Baylor Bears look to advance to beat the West Virginia Mountaineers for the third time in 2015. With Juwan Staten and Gary Browne both questionable for the Thursday morning tip, what do the Bears need to do to advance to the Big 12 semifinals?
|No. 16 Baylor (23-8, 11-7) vs. No. 18 West Virginia (23-8, 11-7)|
|Date||March 12, 2015 | 11:30 a.m. CT|
|Location||Kansas City, Mo. | Sprint Center (18,972)|
|TV||ESPN2 and WatchESPN|
|Radio||ESPN Central Texas|
|Online Audio||Listen Online|
Fun Stats of the Game
-This is the 8th meeting between the two teams, with Baylor owning a 6-1 record
-Baylor is 14-17 all-time in the Big 12 Championship, including 10-10 under Drew and a 9-6 record since 2009
-Baylor is 8-3 in its last 11 games, including a pair of wins vs. West Virginia and wins in 5 of its last 6 games
-This is a matchup of pace, as WVU is one of the faster paced teams in the nation (26th) while Baylor plays at a much slower tempo (307th)
-Baylor is 38-29 in March/April games under Drew, including 13-3 in its last 16 March games
Keys to the Game
1. Continue to Beat the Press - Baylor has simply destroyed the Mountaineers press this season. With Royce O'Neale playing a key role, the Bears have run all over West Virginia, using the mini fast-break opportunities to get easy buckets and open 3-pointers. They have made 14-30 3-pointers combined in the two previous games against WVU. Even for a good shooting team, that is impressive. Get the ball to O'Neale in the middle of the court, and watch one of the best passers in the Big 12 go to work.
2. Limit the Turnovers - Despite 19 turnovers in the first match up, the Bears were able to easily beat WVU courtesy of shooting better than 60% from the field and making eight 3-pointers. In the second match up, the Bears only turned it over 8 times, while accumulating 18 assists. That is the type of effort Baylor will need against an aggressive Mountaineer team. WVU has 39 points off of turnovers this year against the Bears. However, 27 of those came in the first match with a healthy Staten and Browne.
3. Don't get caught expecting a Win - With two easy wins already against West Virginia, the Bears biggest concern might be taking this game too lightly and not coming out with the necessary energy and focus to make it three in a row. The Mountaineers are a good team, ranked in the Top-20 for most of the season and with some great wins. They have beaten Kansas and Oklahoma this year. They are more than capable of beating the Bears.
What Happened Last Time?
In front of a strong Baylor crowd, the Bears used their press-break to again build an early lead over West Virginia; a 9 point lead in the first 5 minutes. The lead would grow to as many as 19 in the first half and 20 in the second half before a strong closing run by the Mountaineers made the game look more respectable. The result was a 78-66 win with four Bears in double figure scoring, led by 20 from Taurean Prince.
KenPom.com – Baylor wins 70-67 (61% chance for win)
Massey.com – Baylor Wins 69-66 (58% chance for win)
Tim Watkins BearsIllustrated.com Writer– Baylor wins 78-62
The Bears are just an awful match up for West Virginia. With two points guards on the court most of the time, and a tremendous ball handler and passer at the small forward position in Royce O'Neale, the Bears can withstand and thrive against the Mountaineers aggressive pressing attack. Add in injuries that might not have Juwan Staten available (or at least limited) and the Bears win a big one for the third time against West Virginia.