West Virginia-Baylor Preview
West Virginia has secured its best Big 12 finish since joining the league in 2012-13, but one more win would ease the road to the Mountaineers' first tournament title.
Another loss might make it that much more difficult for Baylor.
While No. 10 West Virginia looks to close the regular season with a fourth straight win Saturday, the 19th-ranked Bears hope a Senior Day victory in Waco will supply some momentum entering next week's tourney.
West Virginia (23-7, 12-5) has never finished higher than fifth in the Big 12 but would be the second seed in Kansas City with a victory, earning a date against the winner of the 7-10 game between Texas Tech and TCU - teams it blew out by 20-plus points within the last month.
A loss and an Oklahoma victory over TCU would drop the Mountaineers to third, netting a tougher matchup in the quarterfinals.
With a third loss in four games, Baylor (21-9, 10-7) could drop to the sixth seed. The Bears will be in the 4-5 matchup with a win or Kansas victory over Iowa State, but if neither happens they would face the third seed.
The Mountaineers are well aware of what is on the line.
"I've always been honest with them," coach Bob Huggins said. "We're not going to dwell on it, but we are going to make them aware of where we are and where we can be."
To Huggins, the formula is simple for another conference win - what would be the Mountaineers' most since a 13-5 showing in 2009-10 as part of the Big East. West Virginia is the Big 12's best defensive team, limiting opponents to 66.4 points per game, but he says making shots Saturday is the key.
The Mountaineers are 13-0 when shooting better than 47.0 percent but 8-6 at worse than 44.0. The former was the case in an 80-69 home win over Baylor on Feb. 6, snapping the Bears' four-game win streak in this series.
Daxter Miles Jr. made 4 of 5 3-pointers for 20 points and West Virginia shot 49.1 percent while holding the Bears to 38.7.
The result was a direct contrast to last season's three-game series, which included a meeting in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament. Baylor won each game by double digits and shot 52.4 percent to West Virginia's 40.3.
This is the fifth straight meeting between the teams while both are ranked.
Miles snapped his shooting slump with 15 points in Wednesday's 90-68 win over the Red Raiders, and Jaysean Paige continued his surge with 15 off the bench. Paige has averaged 19.8 points in the last four and leads the Mountaineers with 14.3 per game, something no reserve has done in school history.
Baylor dropped a 73-71 heartbreaker at No. 6 Oklahoma on Tuesday, falling short after rallying from a 26-point first-half deficit.
Taurean Prince and King McClure keyed the comeback with 17 points apiece, but a 67-percent shooting performance after halftime wasn't enough to overcome 11 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.
''I was proud of our comeback,'' coach Scott Drew said. ''A lot of teams would have given up or not come back, divided.''
The Bears are the nation's only team without a loss outside the RPI top 40 but own an 0-4 mark against top-10 teams - two losses each to the Sooners and Jayhawks. They have dropped four of six at home after opening 12-0 at Ferrell Center.