West Virginia lost, 70-59 at No. 1 Baylor on Saturday. It was the No. 14 Mountaineers seventh loss of the season, their sixth in Big 12 play. But Saturday’s loss wasn’t like the other six.
For the first time this season, the Mountaineers (18-7, 6-6 Big 12) were overwhelmed by their opposition. There was no energy disparity, no sloppy fundamentals, no cold shooting, no poor adjustment to playing on the road, no referee errors to attribute as the cause of WVU’s defeat.
Yes, WVU could have played more inspired. The Mountaineers could have used a better shooting effort – another awful effort, 19-for-55 on Saturday. WVU has still to show it can win a conference road game against anyone outside the Big 12 basement. If you’re among the conspiracy-minded folks, insert your own “the refs are out to get the ‘Eers!” collusion plan here.
But none of those are why WVU lost on Saturday.
The reason Baylor (23-1, 12-0) beat West Virginia is Baylor has better players. The Mountaineers had no answer for the Bears quickness and athleticism. While Baylor went through and around the bigger Mountaineers, WVU looked like it was playing the game in work boots.
Baylor had no problem with West Virginia’s superior size. West Virginia had not answer for Baylor’s superior quickness.
The Bears are good. Ridiculously so. They’re the number one team in the nation and have been for more than a month. Saturday was their 22nd-straight victory overall and 12th-straight Big 12 victory (both school records). The craziest stat reflecting how dominant – and how consistent – Baylor has been? The Bears haven’t trailed in any home game by more than four points.
Saturday’s matchup at Baylor would answer how well the Mountaineers stack up against probably the best team in America. The answer? They don’t.
The Mountaineers performance in Waco, Texas, on Saturday also offers fans a dose of uncomfortable clarity. The first 24 games showed that West Virginia is an NCAA Tournament-worthy team. Saturday’s loss shows the Mountaineers aren’t Final Four contenders. Fans should adjust their expectations accordingly.
This is a young team (most inexperienced in the Big 12). While nothing is guaranteed in college basketball, if the right combination of players return, next season has the chance to be special for WVU.
But the Baylor defeat shows how far this team has to go.