After losing key contributors like Taurean Prince and Rico Gathers, no one could have guessed that the Baylor Bears would be entering Tuesday evening's contest with a record of 15-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country. The Bears were picked to finish fifth in the preseason Big 12 poll but after signature non-conference wins against the likes of Oregon, Michigan State, Louisville and Xavier the Bears have put the Big 12 (and the country) on notice. So what makes the Bears so tough to beat? According to West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins its a matter of their size and length.
"They're so long and that's the biggest thing," said Huggins. "That makes that zone really good and when you can pretty much touch hands across the board you can cover a lot of ground and they cover a lot of ground."
While the aforementioned Gathers and Prince were as good as any front court in the Big 12, Huggins stated that the length of Jonathan Motley and Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. poses more problems for teams to match-up against. Motley currently averages 15.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game and Lual-Acuil is averaging an absurd 3.5 blocks per contest.
"Gathers was really a heck of a player for them but he wasn't as long," Huggins observed. "Prince was really a good payer for them but he wasn't as good as Motley. You can't simulate their length."
As Huggins stated, the Bears' length could potentially give West Virginia's offense a lot of trouble and force the Mountaineers, who are normally the aggressor, into more turnovers than they're accustomed to committing. Huggins made it clear that the Mountaineers would have to put an emphasis on speeding the Bears up and that, of course, will only happen if they can execute their full court press. Huggins also detailed the different defensive looks the Bears would throw at the Mountaineers as opposed to just sitting in a zone.
"We have got to do a good job in the full court and they're going to play man too," Huggins noted. "They're going to play man after a miss and zone after a make so they give you a lot to get ready for and (Baylor head coach Scott Drew) has played a lot of box and one. We have to do a good job in the full court and speed them up."
After breaking down the Bears, Huggins also touched on his rotation, which has been 10 players since conference play started just weeks ago. The head man stated he would like to get Nathan Adrian some more rest, play Teyvon Myers a little bit more and eventually bring Maciej Bender into the mix at forward.
"It's kind of like I tell them every day, we're trying to win and I'm going to play the guys that are going to win," Huggins said. "I'm playing Nate too much and I fully understand that and I think that's part of why he's not making as many shots as I think he can. He's just so hard to get out of there. Teyvon hasn't played particularly well over the last few games. He played really well for a couple of games and then he started to struggle a little bit. We need to get him going again so we can get him more minutes and give the rest of those guys a little more rest. We need to get Maciej in and he probably has as good as feet as anyone next to Nate and defensively I think he can do a pretty good job for us."