Baylor vs West Virginia Preview

Baylor vs West Virginia Preview

The Bears host the West Virginia Mountaineers for the first time as conference-mates in a Big 12 battle.

It is weird to think that we are 10 games into an 18 game conference schedule and still have two teams that we have not faced, but here we are seeing the Mountaineers for the first time as conference mates. WVU comes into the game at just 5-5 in conference play and 12-11 overall. They have won three straight Big 12 games, with all three of those coming against the other Texas teams in the Big 12 (UT, Texas Tech and TCU) and those of those on the road.

2012-2013

Baylor

West Virginia

Sagarin

20

70

KenPom

27

94

Massey

51

108

TeamRanking.com

49

97

RPI (ESPN)

53

89

BPI (ESPN)

31

85

AP Poll

NA

NA

Coaches Poll

NA

NA

The Mountaineers have shown a huge improvement in their offense the past three games, shooting 51.6% over the past three games. However, their season long shooting percentage has been an abysmal 40.7% from the field. Their 3-point shooting has been absolutely exceptional at 51.2% over the past three games.

None of the Mountaineer players average over 10 points, but they have seven that average at least 7 points per game. They are led by Aaric Murray, a junior center that transferred from LaSalle and is in his first year in Morgantown. He is an extremely talented player, one that is a career 36% three-point shooter and a former 15 point scorer for LaSalle. He has struggled with shot selection and with finding his role with West Virginia, but over the past three games has really been limited offensively.

In fact, over the three-game winning streak their offensive "stars" have been all over the map. Against TCU it was Terry Henderson, a freshman guard scoring 17 points in just 19 minutes. Against Texas, a 60-58 win in Austin, it was the due of Deniz Kilici and Jabarie Hinds scoring 14 points with Eron Harris scoring 13. Finally, against Texas Tech it was Harris again with 18 points.

NCAA Basketball Stats

Their two highest volume shooters though are probably two of their most inefficient players. Jabarie Hinds takes a team high 8.9 shots per game, yet makes just 34.3% of his shots. That is a shockingly low shooting percentage, especially for a guy with such a high volume of shots. The second worst culprit is Juwan Staten, who takes 7.6 shots per game and barely passes 40% shooting. With Hinds, you are at least getting a guy that hit the 3-pointer (takes 2.9 per game and makes 25.8%) but Staten is 0-7 from behind the arc, so his efficiency is stunningly low on that 40% mark. To compare Staten to a current Bear, he is a shot-happier version of A.J. Walton that can't make a 3-pointer. So yeah, Mountaineer fans might not be too happy with Staten.

So, West Virginia is not a good shooting team (at least outside of the last 3-game stretch), but what are they good at? They are really good at forcing turnovers. 22.4% of their opposition's possessions end in a turnover, the 66th highest mark in the NCAA. They force 14.8 turnovers per game a very high mark for the amount of defensive possessions they have.

Keys to the Game

-Don't foul too much – The Mountaineers are a terrible shooting team, possibly the worst in the Big 12. They don't shoot the ball well at all from 2-point range or from 3-point range. They are an average team when it comes to turning it over (106th in percent of possessions ending in a turnover). The only way they are above average at scoring the ball is from the free throw line, where they get 23.2% of their points (44th highest in the country). They shoot just 69.7% from the line (153rd in the country) but they get there 22.2 times per game, which is 55th in the country.

Their post players are especially adept at getting to the foul line, with Deniz Kilici leading the way. Kilici is a bulldog and a massive player underneath for the Mountaineers at 260 pounds. He draws 5.5 fouls per 40 minutes of action and shoots 3.4 free throws per game. But the main way they get to the line is with dribble penetration by guards Juwan Staten, Gary Browne and Eron Harris. All three are very good at getting into the heart of the defense and all three shoot over 75% from the charity stripe.

College Basketball

The Bears defense has done a great job of not fouling all year, with just AJ Walton, Cory Jefferson and Rico Gathers really getting into foul trouble most nights. The Bears need to continue to play tough shot denial defense and not send a trio of excellent free throw shooters to the line for easy points.

-Keep them off the offensive glass – If there is one thing that a Bob Huggins team usually is pretty good at, it is rebounding, especially on the offensive glass. This year is not an exception as they are 34th in offensive rebounding percentage according to KenPom, getting to 37.2% of their misses. That is an extraordinary number, considering the huge amount of misses they have.

Their best offensive rebounders are Murray, a very athletic and aggressive post player that knows how to get to the rim at least for rebounding purposes, and Kevin Noreen, their primary back up at the post positions behind Murray and Kilici. Both Kilici and Noreen could cause problems for the Bears, as both are over 250 lbs and will have a large weight and strength advantage over the quicker, yet lighter Baylor post players. Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson will have to really focus on blocking out with great position and fundamentals against the larger West Virginia post players.

-Turn up the tempo – The Mountaineers aren't the slowest team in the Big 12 (that is still TCU by a large margin) but they are one of the slower ones. They are just 230th in adjusted tempo according to KenPom compared to the Bears at 92. West Virginia averages just 67.1 possessions per game, 3.5 less than the Bears.

The Bears the much quicker team in the back court and also in the post, where the Mountaineers size could lead to some chances for deep post position for the Baylor post players if they hustle down the court and take advantage of their superior speed. It also doesn't hurt that the Bears might have the fastest player with a basketball in his hand in college. Pierre Jackson is elite when it comes to his speed and ability to attack a defense in transition. I expect the Bears to run more against West Virginia, and try and take advantage of their large speed advantage.

Predictions

KenPom – 72-61 Bears win (84% chance for victory)

Massey – 73-62 Bears win (85% chance for victory)

BearsIllustrated –68-57 Bears win

Before the last three games, West Virginia was shooting under 40% on the season from the field, and was struggling to break 70 points in a conference game. In fact, they have only broken 70 in two games in Big 12 play, against Texas Tech and TCU. They average just 63.8 points per game in conference play, while the Bears hold Big 12 opponents to a league low 60.8 points per game. Baylor has done a great job of making team take difficult shots. I expect that to continue as the Bears defense carries them to a win, and they do enough on offense to get to a 2-game winning streak.

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