The Mountaineers face their toughest competition so far this season when they square off with #7 ranked Baylor in Las Vegas.
Fresh off of Bob Huggins' 700th career win, a thrilling overtime victory against Missouri State, the Mountaineers face an even tougher task: the undefeated and seventh ranked Baylor Bears. While the 'Eers struggled last night, they squeaked out a victory in the closing seconds despite playing poorly. That kind of effort just won't cut it for West Virginia tonight. Here's what I'm watching:
- The Baylor Bigs. Baylor is led by three dominant post players, each 6-10 or taller. West Virginia's size.... not so much. Freshman center Pat Forsythe is out with a back injury and junior forward Deniz Kilicli left last night's contest with a hip pointer. That means that the Mountaineers' big men are limited to senior forward Kevin Jones and redshirt freshman Kevin "Hot Dish" Noreen. Any Mountaineer fan has a very good reason to be concerned. Noreen has done decent work as a space-filler so far this season, but it's hard to imagine him being able to keep Baylor's post players in check. In Jones case, the Mountaineers need him to do work offensively, so if he gets mired in foul trouble early it could be a death blow to WVU's chances.
- Brown(e)s Breaking Out. The story of last night's contest was the emergence of freshmen Gary Browne and Aaron Brown. Gary was the player of the game, hitting the game tying three pointer with less than two seconds remaining in regulation and generally playing focused offensive basketball. Aaron had the best game of his young career, hitting four threes. Outside shooting is something the Mountaineers lack so having Brown emerge as a go to guy on the perimeter will help free up space inside for WVU's big guys. Gary, at the point, may have staked a claim to the starting spot currently held by Jabarie Hinds. Even if he doesn't start, expect Gary Browne to spend significant minutes on the court with the ball in his hand.
- The Free Throw Stripe. WVU has been abysmyl at the line so far this season shooting a pathetic sixty three percent as a team. Truck Bryant, the team's best free throw shooter, has missed shots in crucial moments, including last night's game. In general the Mountaineers have left plenty of missed opportunities unfulfilled from the charity stripe. I expect WVU's smaller players to spend plenty of time at the line tonight, I'm just not sure that they'll do anything productive with it.