College Basketball Game of the Week: Baylor vs. West Virginia

Story posted March 2, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Eric Fenstermaker

The No. 3 Baylor Bears will look to bounce back from their lone loss this season in Morgantown, West Virginia, as they take on the No. 6 West Virginia Mountaineers.

These two teams will face each other for the first time all season after two postponements and a cancellation.

The first matchup between these two teams was scheduled for Jan. 12, in Waco, Texas, but was postponed. Following a cancellation and another postponement in February, this will be the only time fans will get to see these teams face off in the regular season.

Baylor started the season 16-0, but that winning streak almost came to an end against the 2-18 Iowa State Cyclones. Despite trailing big early on, the Bears rallied back and secured a 77-72 victory.

The Bears were not as lucky in their next matchup, as they fell to the Kansas Jayhawks 71-58 to bring their record to 18-1 on the year. Baylor still sits atop the Big 12 Conference, but with just a 1.5-game lead over West Virginia, the Bears need to get back to their winning ways.

Baylor will look to its leading scorer, Jared Butler, to get the team back on track against the Mountaineers. The junior guard from Louisiana is averaging 16.4 points per game with 4.9 assists.

Butler had just five points against the Jayhawks, so he will need to perform at a high level if the Bears want to emerge victorious against the Mountaineers.

Baylor also needs its forwards to step up and score at a respectable rate. Seven of Baylor’s top eight scorers are guards. The Bears’ forwards combine for an average of just 15 points per game. This poor showing will not get the job done against West Virginia; the Bears need to find ways to help their big men score.

West Virginia comes into this matchup on a three-game win streak and having secured eight victories in its last 10 games.

The Mountaineers have four players who average over 10 points per game and are led in scoring by Miles McBride. The sophomore guard leads his team in points (15.5 per game) and assists (4.6).

West Virginia is driven inside by junior forward Derek Culver, who averages 15 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. He is the heart and soul of West Virginia’s presence on the boards. Culver is a ferocious glass cleaner that can score and rebound at a high level.

Unlike Baylor, the Mountaineers get good production out of their forwards. West Virginia’s top forwards combine for an average of 31.2 points per game and help pace the offense.

As such, West Virginia will be looking to exploit its advantage inside and score close to the rim.

This game has monumental importance for both teams as the NCAA approaches Selection Sunday.

The Bears are looking to close out the regular season strongly. A win against West Virginia should all but guarantee the Bears a No. 1 seed in the tournament behind Gonzaga and possibly Michigan.

However, West Virginia can still make a push in the Big 12 if Baylor continues to falter. The Mountaineers could even play well enough over the next few games to see themselves to a No. 1 seed.

Both teams need to win to maintain their statuses as some of the NCAA’s elite teams, and neither squad can afford a late-season loss that could jeopardize a high seed.

All things considered, West Virginia is the likely pick here. Baylor suffered its first loss of the year in its last matchup and has been struggling recently since its return from pause. The Bears now have to go on the road and face a West Virginia team that has found great success over its last few games.

Baylor will be able to turn things around and get back to performing well, but the Mountaineers will be too much for a team that has seen the rug pulled out from underneath itself recently.

Look for West Virginia to use its size to dominate in this matchup.

Prediction: West Virginia 81, Baylor 77

 

Eric Fenstermaker is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at esf5129@psu.edu.