MORGANTOWN, W, Va. — Good day from the WVU Coliseum, where the West Virginia men’s basketball team will try to make it two in a row after Jermaine Haley’s drive helped the Mountaineers beat No. 7 Kansas on Saturday.
The result of that win, as well as Baylor’s 73-62 victory against No. 8 Texas Tech on the same day has now basically created chaos in the league standings. True, it is chaos the Mountaineers (9-9, 1-5 Big 12) are not yet involved in, but the Big 12 has four teams (Kansas, Texas Tech, Kansas State and Iowa State) all tied for first with 4-2 marks. Baylor (11-6, 3-2) is only a half game out from joining the mix.
How close are the Mountaineers to being in the mix? They beat Kansas, had a 21-point lead on Kansas State and missed 14 free throws in a three-point loss against Texas Tech. They win all three and the Mountaineers would be one game back of Kansas and Iowa State and Kansas State and Texas Tech would be trailing WVU in the standings.
Baylor and West Virginia’s upsets on Saturday also means the Big 12 only has Kansas barely hanging in the top 10 at No. 9 of the Associated Press rankings, which can give the impression that Big 12 teams will not fare well in March, but that is a story for a later date.
As for the Bears,they have an interesting story in guard Makai Mason, who leads the team in scoring at 14.7 points per game. Baylor, which was picked to finish ninth in the Big 12 in the preseason poll, also has built its own momentum coming into the game and would remain right there with the rest of the pack of leaders with a win against the Mountaineers, who own a three-game win streak against Baylor and haven’t lost at home to the Bears since Feb. 7, 2015.
Here’s what you need to know:
TV: ESPNU for the 9 p.m. tip-off. BETTING LINE: West Virginia is a 3-point favorite.
THREE GOOD QUESTIONS
Can the Mountaineers sustain the momentum from the Kansas win? This is the $64 million question, and really, the same could be asked about Baylor, which is coming off its own big win. WVU coach Bob Huggins was asked about whether a quick Saturday-Monday turnaround was good after a big win? “I don’t know, did [Baylor] also play today?” Huggins asked and was then informed Baylor also played Saturday. “Then it’s good.” With this bunch, it really is hard to determine how they will play from one game to the next.
IF West Virginia beats Baylor, then what? They will have a little momentum, but will then have to travel to newly-crowned No. 1 Tennessee, which will be sold out and ready for anything WVU throws its way. WVU would then stay on the road and travel to Iowa State, which could take over first place in the Big 12 tonight with a win at Kansas. That kind of puts an emphasis on this Baylor game, because the road ahead looks long indeed.
Who does WVU key on against Baylor? King McClure is a senior guard who had 29 points last week against Oklahoma State. He leads the team with 44 assists and shoots 40 percent from 3-point range. Mason is also a solid shooter (29 3-pointers), but what is really interesting is the Bears have basically started a five-guard lineup since forward Tristan Clark injured knee three games ago. Clark is out for the rest of the season, which forced Baylor coach Scott Drew to go with the all-guard look. Baylor is 2-1 since doing it, with the one loss coming against Kansas.
FOLLOW on Twitter @bigjax3211