Baylor Bears (18-13) at West Virginia Mountaineers (22-9)
Yikes. When you are on the wrong side of the biggest comeback in school history, it is always going to hurt. When you had a 21-point lead in the second half and were getting +2.5 points on top of it, and fail to cover, it hurts even more. That is what happened last night when we backed the Virginia Tech Hokies against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Hokies led 47-26 with just over fourteen minutes left to play. Then the wheels completely fell off for Virginia Tech. The Irish finished on an insane run and were able to complete the comeback, and a nasty backdoor cover, eventually taking the game 71-65. It was truly a stunning way to lose a game. Good for the Irish as they badly needed the win to convince the selection committee that they are a tournament-worthy team now that star Bonzie Colson is back on the court. For Virginia Tech, they are going to have to find a way to shake off a historic collapse and quick, as their next game will be in the NCAA tournament. Today I will go from the ACC tournament to the Big 12 tournament, as the Baylor Bears will play the West Virginia Mountaineers.
The Baylor Bears and the West Virginia Mountaineers will meet up in the first round of the Big 12 tournament tonight in Kansas City. Baylor had a rough start to Big 12 play but put together a big five-game winning streak in February that vaulted them into consideration for an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament this year. They find themselves squarely on the bubble tonight, and it could be win or go home for Baylor. For West Virginia, the Mountaineers have spent time as one of the nation’s highest-ranked teams, and they have spent time squandering huge leads against mediocre teams. The Mountaineers are looking to make their third straight Big 12 tournament finals. The Mountaineers are -5-point favorites. The game total over-under is set at 140.5 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00 PM from the Sprint Center.
The Baylor Bears were an afterthought in the Big 12 for much of the early part of the season. The Bears started out just 2-8 in league play. The Bears turned their act’s around in a big way in February as they won five straight league games, including huge upset victories over Oklahoma State, Kansas, Texas, and Texas Tech. It was a who’s who of the Big 12 and the Bears managed to beat them all.
That run thrust Baylor into the at-large bid conversation, something that was unthinkable just a few weeks before. The Bears stumbled down the stretch of the regular season as they lost three out of their last four games, including a loss to this West Virginia team. As it sits right now, the Bears are slated as the last team to make the field of 68 by ESPN’s bracket guru Joe Lunardi. If they win today, they are likely locks to make the field. If they lose today, well they will be sitting on edge on Selection Sunday with the rest of the bubble teams, hoping to hear their names called.
West Virginia might win the national title this year. They might lose in the first round. That about sums up this West Virginia team this year. They can beat any team in the country. We saw that when they beat Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech. The Virginia win might be the best single win of any team this year as the Cavaliers are the consensus number one overall seed entering the tournament.
But West Virginia has had their struggles as well this year. They have losses to Kentucky, Iowa State, OK State, and a very undermanned Texas Longhorns team in their last game of the regular season. Something tells me the best is yet to come for this team, but they can be very inconsistent, so you have to be very careful.
These two teams have played twice this season. Both games were hard fought defensive games that saw the Mountaineers come out on top. I have preached all post-season long how hard it is for a team to beat another team three times in one season. That being said, that is what I expect to happen tonight.
Baylor put together a nice run to get their faces on the map, but it looks like that hot streak has run out of gas as they are 1-3 in their last four games. The lone win coming against an Oklahoma team that has completely gone off the rails. They lost to a struggling TCU team playing without its best player in Jaylen Fischer, by double-digits and lost to an average Kansas State team by double-digits as well. The February 20th loss to West Virginia? They lost that one by double-digits too.
If you take away the win against Oklahoma, a game that saw Trae Young shoot just 2-11 from deep, this team not only hasn’t been winning games, they haven’t really been all that competitive in the last couple of weeks. I expect that trend to continue tonight. I don’t think Baylor was nearly as bad as their 2-8 start showed. But I also down think they were nearly as good as that five-game winning streak either.
All told the Bears finished 8-10 in Big 12 play for a sixth-place finish, and that feels about right I guess. They are a below average Big 12 team, and I see them losing tonight by 8-12 points and seeing them missing the cut for the NCAA tournament this year. It was a nice run by the Bears, but that run comes to an end tonight in Kansas City. Give me the West Virginia Mountaineers -5-points tonight!