Three Keys For A Mountaineer Victory Over Baylor
On Saturday morning, West Virginia travels to Waco to take on the #1 team in college basketball, the Baylor Bears. The game will tip-off at 4pm EST on ESPN+.
*If you don't have access to ESPN+, please see the end of the article for advice on how to get updates*
Baylor currently has an incredible 22-1 record and a perfect 11-0 Big 12 conference record. This has been one of the biggest surprises of the college basketball season; people knew Baylor was going to be a great team but I don't think anyone outside of Waco thought they would ever reach the #1 ranking. The Bears have one of the top offenses in the country as they are averaging 71.6 points per game. They have been playing solid team defense, better than past years, as they are only allowing 58.3 points per game. This will be one of the toughest games yet for the Mountaineers, but if they can follow these three keys, they can pull off the upset and knock off the nation's number one team.
1. Make Shots
Ever since Bob Huggins took over as the basketball coach at West Virginia, after every loss he has always mentioned one thing during every press conference: you have to make shots. Last game vs Kansas, the Mountaineers shot an abysmal 31.7% from the field and a horrific 23.5% from the three point line. The Mountaineers are shooting 30% from three this season, and if that holds up, would go down as the worst shooting year in the entire history of West Virginia basketball. If the Mountaineers would have shot better against Kansas (both games), Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Kansas State, and St. John's, this team would be undefeated and probably be #1 instead of Baylor. West Virginia plays well in all other facets of the game, fixing this shooting problem probably would ascend them to a true National Championship contender.
2. Execute Half-Court Offense
The first half against Kansas fooled Mountaineer fans that West Virginia had finally fixed their offensive struggles. They were feeding their big men often, guards were hitting open shots, and they forced Kansas into foul trouble. The went into halftime with a 30-24 lead. In the second half, they decided to go away from their first half attack and were outscored 34-19 in the second half and lost 58-49. If the Mountaineers want to upset Baylor, they will have to have that same plan of attack they showed in the first half against the Jayhawks. Baylor plays great team defense where they rotate and help each other. They will start to double Tshiebwe and Culver, so they will need to rely on others step up and provide offense and take the burden off of the big men.
3. Control The Paint
Tshiebwe and Culver are the best rebounding duo in all of college basketball. West Virginia has been blessed with two big guys who have a nose for the ball and are the best rebounders in the country. The Mountaineers have won games this season when they win the rebounding battle and can create more second chance opportunities for the offense. West Virginia has always been one of the top offensive rebound teams in college basketball, and they will need to continue that against Baylor. Guards will also have to help in the rebounding game and do their best to limit second chance opportunities for the Bears; you can't give this Baylor team more chances to score because they will burn you. The Bears have two guards, Jared Butler and MaCio Teague, who are their leading scorers. Look for these guys to take the majority of the shots and create plays for their teammates. But by controlling the rebounds, it takes the ball out of their hands.
West Virginia will have a fight on their hands this Saturday, but if the Mountaineers can follow these three keys, they will put themselves in a good position to leave Waco with a win.
If you cannot watch the game because you don't have ESPN+, there is no reason to worry. Before every game, Mountaineer Maven has posted a "Game Thread" where our Mountaineer Maven team and West Virginia fans can comment and interact with each other. *Note: don't follow/comment on the thread through Facebook/Twitter comments, but through the actual article itself* Let's help each other out by commenting as much as possible for those who can't watch and keep them posted play by play and score by score.
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