Game time is at 7PM ET tonight on ESPN2 and this is not a game you’ll want to miss. However, before we can discuss the matchup between No. 1 Baylor and No. 10 West Virginia tonight, there needs to be some discussion about Villanova.
Perfect Season Out of reach for Villanova
Last week I discussed the tough week that the Wildcats would have to endure, and if they would still come out on top (Who Will Stop Villanova?). If you haven’t heard, Butler put an end to Wildcats’ perfect season.
Villanova did what was expected, as they limited Kelan Martin to 12 points. However, Andrew Chrabascz put up 13 points, and freshman Kamar Baldwin added 10 points.
But it was really the senior, Kethan Savage, that came up big for the Bulldogs. Savage (laughing at the irony of his name) scored 13 points, five of which were on a critical, late run in the second half.
The Wildcats were their own worst enemy. Mikal Bridges played 28 minutes but neglected to make a field goal, and he is averaging 9.7 points on the season. Everyone has their bad games, but Bridges shoots at 58.9% (the highest field goal percentage on the team). Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart were a combined 7-22 from the field despite Jalen Brunson going off for 23 points.
Villanova will still be a top contender for the national title. They defeated Marquette pretty handily with a 93-81 victory. Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart were back to their point-machine selves. Jenkins added a season high 23 points, Hart chipped in 19, and Mikal Bridges had a quick turnaround from Butler. Bridges scored 15 points and the Wildcats overall shot 65.3% from the field and 60.9% from behind the arc. Yes, you read that right. Villanova shot the lights out.
Big East action continues this week, as the Wildcats take on Xavier at home and travel to St. John’s this Saturday.
Number one falls, next man up
Villanova no longer has a perfect record, but the Bears do. Baylor is one of the two unbeaten teams left in Division I college basketball. Respect, am I right?
It has not been a cake walk for the Bears. Louisville, Xavier, and Oregon are just a few of the teams that Baylor had to get past to be where they are now. They are also one of the few teams to reach the number one ranking, despite not being ranked in the preseason.
How do they do it?
Let’s talk about the junior class. Johnathan Motley, Manu Lecomte, Al Freeman, Jo Laul-Acuil Jr., Terry Maston, and Nuni Amot are all juniors. They are also the top six scorers for the Bears based on point averages. This combination of juniors allows Baylor to be as successful as they are. Without them, who knows where they would be? The best part is, it means Baylor will have this experienced class next year as seniors. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though.
Motley pulls down 9.4 rebounds per game and Lecomte can distribute the ball well (averaging 4.9 assists per game). Jo Laul-Acuil Jr. defends the paint like any 7’0” center should. He has 52 blocks this season.
It is not just about the juniors though. Senior Ishmail Wainright is a leader on the team, vocally and with experience. He also leads the team in steals, averaging 1.7 per game and 25 on the season. He has a defensive prowess that one should watch out for.
The question is: Will the Bears remain at the number one spot as they take on West Virginia this week at their place?
West virginia has what it takes
This game is very similar to the Villanova/Butler matchup this past week. Once again the top team in the nation on a large win streak is headed to scrappy team’s home court.
West Virginia is unique to most top-ranked teams in the nation. They don’t have a single standout player. They are are deep and have production from many players.
When comparing all of the statistics, Baylor and West Virginia are pretty evenly matched. Except for one category, points per game. The Mountaineers are averaging 90.1 points per game, but Baylor only averages 77.1. West Virginia is also coming off a close overtime loss to Texas Tech, which will only propel them for this game.
They also have the personnel to get the job done and fans to back them up. WVU’s Coliseum supports 14,000 people and it will be loud tonight. Coach Bob Huggins has a team that sits down and defends. Their full court pressure has bothered a lot of teams and allowed them to go on important runs in games. They have many offensive weapons including sophomore Esa Ahmad, Junior Jevon Carter, Junior Daxter Miles Jr., and senior Nathan Adrian to name a few.
In order for West Virginia to pull off the upset against the Bears, they have to come out with energy. Sounds simple, but it could be a make or break factor to the game. Once they get the lead, they can’t let the Bears hang around like they let TCU do this past week.
“From Our Haus to Yours”