Men's Basketball, Sports, WVU Sports

COLUMN: Despite experience, WVU can’t find footing in Big 12

It’s time to put to bed this myth that older is somehow better and the older that a college basketball team is, the better chance it has of winning.

That much was very clear following Baylor’s 83-78 victory against West Virginia on Wednesday, in front of 11,815 inside the Coliseum.

True, the Bears (11-5, 1-3 Big 12) are not a bunch of wide-eyed youngsters looking to push the panic button at the first sign of adversity.

L.J. Cryer is experienced. Flo Thamba is experienced, so is Adam Flagler.

All three were contributors to Baylor’s national championship team two years ago. Thamba was a starter back then.

So, Baylor wasn’t going to shy away every time WVU made a run.

“Your upperclassmen lead the way,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “Our culture, early in the year, we did that against UCLA and did that against Gonzaga. Those were two quality wins.”

But, let’s keep this tuned in to the Mountaineers (10-6, 0-4), whose struggles against Big 12 competition have cut much deeper than what transpired against Baylor.

This is not a young WVU team, which has been a storyline since this season began.

We’ve been told the Mountaineers are playing with determined men. We’ve been told their overall experience — albeit at other schools — would make a real difference in turning around a program that finished in last place in the Big 12 with a 4-14 mark in 2021-22.

WVU’s starting five consists of three fifth-year seniors and two seniors.

Guys who can legally go to a bar and order a drink. Guys who are much older than a bulk of enlisted men and women in this country serving in the military.

Those guys combined to shoot 9 of 34 against Baylor.

In the other league games, so far, they haven’t stepped up and showed their maturity and shot the ball all that well, either.

Here’s the honest truth: Older isn’t always necessarily better in college basketball.

Better is better.

Sure, if you’ve got two evenly-matched teams in talent and ability, and one team is older and more experienced, the older team is probably going to win.

“We want to sit here and say, ‘Well, we got transfers guys coming from other places and they were senior and grad students,’ ” WVU head coach Bob Huggins began. “The reality of it is, they didn’t play all that much there and it’s a different culture (at WVU).”

My mind races back to the start of the season, when one of the oldest guys on the team — Emmitt Matthews Jr. — joked that the older players weren’t all that keen on letting some whippersnapper scoring on them.

Baylor guard Keyonte George is just such a young whippersnapper, one who was thinking about his high school senior prom at this time a year ago.

He scored 32 points against the older Mountaineers, including a miracle off-balanced 3-pointer at the end of the first half and then plenty of other shots that were well guarded.

Now, George is a future NBA first-round pick. He’s the highest-ranked freshman Baylor has ever signed, but he’s the one who played like an experienced veteran when his team needed him the most.

Better is better, regardless of age or playing experience.

Older is not better. If you were a marginal talent at 20, chances are you’re still a marginal talent at 22 or 23.

Yes, some college players have proven that theory wrong and worked themselves from being average and developing into a star, but that’s the exception, not a rule.

From what the Mountaineers have displayed through the first four Big 12 games, there are no exceptions on this team.

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