You are looking live at a neat pregame scene at the Coliseum. The Big 12 Network crew was taping the intro it plugs in at the start of the game and the students assembled behind the shot and blew bubbles in the background. Because they’re on the bubble! I’m not certain the recoiling Stephen Howard would agree, but I like it. I endorse it. I even condone the giveaway pom poms for the students today. Nothing wrong with that. Better than T-shirts.
Baylor, dressed in black and neon green today, came a long way with a three-game winning streak. WVU’s past two home crowds haven’t been very big, but they’ve been rowdy and they’ve affected the game at appropriate points. Bubbles and pom poms are a good start.
Bad start? Well, WVU isn’t healthy and will be short-handed today.
Terry Henderson a no-go today against Baylor. Battling cold/flu.
— WVU IMG Sports (@WVUIMGSports) February 22, 2014
Divisive as he can be, that’s a big, big blow. Whether he’s on or off, he’s still a body in a role that takes minutes that don’t belong going to someone else.
Positive? I guess you don’t have to worry about him checking out during the game. But that’s it. WVU is not better with this development.
No one’s told me anything about Devin Williams and his status, but he took time and care to get loose and he looked really stiff in the brief warm up I saw him going through.
Losing Henderson doesn’t really force WVU to change its game plan or make the Mountaineers appreciably worse off for the game and at the mercy of the opposition. It would behoove the Mountaineers to have an able Williams in the paint. Baylor is big and has been wise to use its size in its three-game winning streak.
The Mountaineers (15-11, 7-6 Big 12) gave up 23 baskets in the paint and a season-high 57.9 percent shooting and were outrebounded 41-26 as they lost to the Longhorns by 17 points.
That’s followed WVU through its week off as it prepares for Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. game against Baylor at the Coliseum (WQCW in Charleston). The Bears (17-9, 5-8) have won three straight games after losing seven out of eight. Included in the losses was a home loss in which they outrebounded WVU by 10, but were outscored 28-14 in the paint.
In the past three wins, Baylor has outrebounded teams by 27, 14 and 15 and scored 28, 38 and 28 points in the paint. Huggins likened the challenge of playing the Texas frontcourt to playing the Baylor frontcourt.
“I think it is similar,” Huggins said. “They do a great job protecting the rim and they’re a terrific offensive rebounding team.”
Remember, WVU outscored the Bears 28-14 in the paint in Waco. It would seem Baylor has sought to cure that problem, but this is also the Big 12’s best 3-point shooting team and the Bears sometimes fall out of love with easy shots and fall in love with 3-point shots. WVU will take that.
WVU will also take the ball from Baylor. The Bears turn the ball over a lot and WVU had a 18-0 scoring edge off turnovers in the first game between these two. The Mountaineers have to manufacture extra possessions and capitalize on them when they’re going to give up offensive rebounds and points in the paint.
At stake today? It’s probably, if not definitely, a must-win for both squads if they hope to entertain at-large NCAA Tournament possibilities. A win gives Baylor 18 wins with four games to go. A loss gives the Bears (17-9, 5-8) nine Big 12 losses. Hard to consider a team that’s not .500 in the Big 12 as an at-large team.
As for WVU (15-11, 7-6), it’s obviously not in the same bubble position that it was at this time last week. A loss does more damage and, if we’re being honest, makes it at least possible WVU goes to Kansas City at 16-15 — don’t tell me the team that loses today can be expected to navigate Iowa State and Oklahoma on the road and Kansas at home. If 16-15 WVU then loses in the first game of the Big 12 Tournament, the NIT is no guarantee. Only three of the past 256 NIT teams have been fewer than two games above .500 (one was 16-15 St. John’s last year and it was a No. 5 seed).
So with that in mind, suppose WVU goes 3-2 in the final five regular-season games. That’s a 17-14 record in Kansas City. Even a 1-1 record makes them three-games above .500, which seems to be the line to toe here and what makes today kind of a big deal.
Onto the post, which is also kind of a big deal.