After West Virginia has lost their last two games and 3 of the last 5 games, the Mountaineers have not looked the same since losing at Texas Tech on January 29th.
West Virginia’s comically bad offense in the final ten minutes in the loss against the Kansas Jayhawks was the embodiment of the Mountaineers’ struggles. While Kansas certainly played tough defense, West Virginia’s Globetrotter-like, three-man weave at the top of the key was aggressively bad. I expected a West Virginia player to dump a bucket of confetti on a Kansas player and Sweet Georgia Brown to start playing over the loudspeakers.
With that said, West Virginia is a big, deep, tough, proud team and losing three in a row is not in their makeup. Although the Mountaineers don’t have a real leader yet, they have a bunch of players accustomed to winning basketball games. Miles McBride and Oscar Tshiebwe – although too young to take on a leadership role – are undeniably winners and losing does not sit well with them.
While many experts and fans are quick to write this West Virginia team off as “too young” or not good enough offensively, they are still certainly capable of beat anyone anywhere. If they make shots, as Bob Huggins has said, they can compete with anyone in the nation.
Although Baylor is 20-1 and 11-0 in Big 12 Conference play, they have played down to their competition and have shown flashes of weakness and vulnerability. Baylor’s most recent games – a near-loss at Oklahoma (61-57), as well as close games against Kansas State (73-67), Oklahoma State (78-70) and Texas (52-45) – have been anything but impressive, dominant performances.
According to SBNation’s Our Daily Bears, “If you have tuned in any of the last few games, you know they haven’t always been amazing. There have been long stretches of sporadic offense, poor free throw shooting, and frustrating turnovers.”
That sounds an awful lot like the Mountaineers, but West Virginia matches up quite well with this Baylor team. 6’9 Senior Freddie Gillespie averages 9.8 points and 8.9 rebounds, but he is Baylor’s lone big man. Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver, if they can stay out of foul trouble, should be far too much for Gillespie to handle.
These two teams are outstanding defensively and it will definitely be a defensive battle, but if West Virginia shoots well, limits turnovers and makes free throws, this is a very, very winnable game for the Mountaineers, and a win against the #1 ranked team in the nation on the road couldn’t come at a better time.