WVU finally gets shot vs. Baylor
MORGANTOWN — Following countless postponements and reschedulings, arguably one of the most anticipated matchups in the Big 12 will become a reality.
When No. 6 West Virginia hosts No. 3 Baylor at 5 p.m. today (ESPN), it’ll be the first time the two teams have faced off this season and the first time since 2017 that both teams meet with both ranked in the Top 10.
It’s easy to see why Baylor (18-1) is among the nation’s best. The Bears, who lost their first game of the season against Kansas on Saturday, possess the Big 12’s best offense, averaging 84.9 points per game — nearly eight points ahead of the No. 2 team.
They’re propelled by junior guard Jared Butler, who leads the conference in 3-point shooting, ranks second in field goal percentage and fifth in scoring.
“They’re terrific offensively, and I think that they play really hard,” West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said. “Defensively, I think their bigs have really, really helped them. (Baylor forward Mark) Vital’s been solid for them for — what is this now — I think it’s his eighth year. They’re veteran, (and) they don’t get rattled. They play at a great pace. They’re terrific at playing in space.”
Huggins said that when Baylor hits the floor, they’ll be looking across the court at a team made up similarly to itself.
“They’re gonna play against one,” he said when asked about Baylor being a team with a deep bench. “We’ve got at least eight (starters), too. When you bring a Taz Sherman off the bench, when you bring Gabe (Osabuohien) off the bench, bring Jordan off the bench, or Deuce, whichever — they got the same problem we got.”
That “problem” isn’t really much of an issue for the Bears, who currently are a projected No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament later this spring. In addition to being the top scoring team in the conference, Baylor has the highest scoring margin (+21 points), rebounding margin (+4.5) and turnover margin (+6.3).
West Virginia (17-6) enters riding a three-game winning streak. Fresh off a blowout win over Kansas State, in which leading scorer Miles McBride was a nonfactor, it showed the Mountaineers’ abilities up and down the bench.
McBride, who was a little banged up heading into the K-State game, is “doing fine,” according to Huggins. Coming off the bench for the first time this season, guard Jordan McCabe received the start instead, scoring seven points.
In addition, Osabuohien drew raving reviews from Huggins following the game for his performance, coming in with seven rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks.
Outside of McBride, the Mountaineers will likely need a strong performance from forward Derek Culver, the team’s leader in rebounding and second-highest scorer. He scored 11 points and brought in 12 rebounds over two games last season against the Bears.