NCAA Basketball Picks: Baylor Will Cover vs. West Virginia On Senior Night

Jay Pryce

Friday, March 4, 2016 11:30 PM GMT

Friday, Mar. 4, 2016 11:30 PM GMT

No. 19 Baylor and No. 10 West Virginia clash in Waco in the final game of the regular season. The Bears are 0-4 against AP top 10 teams this season, but present a myriad of matchup problems for the Mountaineers. Check out our NCAA Basketball pick and analysis here.

No. 19 Baylor looks to avenge an 80-69 loss to No. 10 West Virginia in Morgantown nearly one month ago, and return to its recent series dominance when it hosts the Mountaineers on Saturday (2 p.m. ET). The Bears have won seven of nine meetings between the two, all coming since 2011.

 

West Virginia Mountaineers (23-7 SU, 17-10 ATS)
Coach Bob Huggins' press defense has been baffling opponents all year. Operating nearly 40 percent of trips down the floor, the full-court scheme forces an astonishing 18.2 turnovers per game. The huge amount of takeaways pit the defense in the top 10 nationally for efficiency, giving up 92.9 points per 100 possessions (8th). Forcing turnovers is pretty vital to the Mountaineers success, particularly in the Big 12. When they generate 16 or more against conference foes, Huggins' men are 9-1 SU and ATS. Below the number, and they slump to a record of 3-4 SU and 2-5 ATS. Opposing offenses go from scoring 65.3 points per game to 75.9 when they're able to control the ball using the aforementioned benchmark. Baylor's 15.5 turnovers per play is right around the NCAAB average; the team gave up just 10 in the first meeting.

Offensively, West Virginia's effectiveness is improving. Its efficiency has increased over the last 45 days or so, jumping to 114.6 points per 100 possessions from 109.3 back on January 23. The Mountaineers' national rank in the category ballooned to 24th from 58th in this span. Shooting 45.1 percent from the field, they do struggle from behind the arc, making 6.0 threes on 18.6 attempts per contest. What allows the Mountaineers to operate crisply on the offensive end is ultimately the press. It generates a whopping 12.3 extra scoring chances per game, nearly three more than any other team in college basketball (Wichita State averages 9.6).

The extra-scoring chances may not come as easily against Baylor. In addition to it's relatively low turnover rate, the home team crushes the boards. Led by Rico Gathers, the Big 12 leader with 9.4 rebounds per contest, the team holds opponents to just 7.8 offensive rebounds per game. In fact, Baylor's dominance on the glass allows for 5.5 extra-scoring chances per game, tied for ninth most nationally. On the road, against teams with a combined turnover plus opponent offense rebounds per game sum of less than 21, West Virginia is 1-4 SU and ATS on the season. Baylor enters the contest under this total in key categories for allowing extra looks.

 

Baylor Bears (21-9 SU, 10-13-1 ATS)
No one is sure what's really going on in Waco, but Baylor has more conference road wins (6-3 SU, 6-2-1 ATS) than at Ferrell Center (4-4 SU, 3-5 ATS) this season. And it's not like the schedule has been easier, the team's average closing line on the NCAA Basketball odds board is -6 as opposed to +3 away from home. Can the Bears send the seniors off with a win in their final home game? I think so.

Offensively, the Bears are the eighth most efficient in the land, scoring 119.1 points per 100 possessions. They play slightly uptempo and work effectively to find open shots. As a result, their .656 assist-per-field goal made rate is third best nationally.

In addition to Gathers, Baylor's forwards Johnathan Motley (11.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Taurean Prince (15.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg) set up an improving rim-protecting zone scheme on defense. Ranked 122nd in the nation, it allows 101.0 points per 100 possessions. West Virginia likes to work it into the paint when in the half court, and will have a difficult time on the road against the Baylor trees.

 

Final Analysis
Baylor is 10-82 all-time against teams ranked in the AP top 10, including 0-4 this season. But Drew's team presents a tough matchup for the Mountaineers. Look for the Bears to take away many of West Virginia's extra looks at the basket, giving them an edge in their final home game of the season. Baylor -2.5 is the NCAA Basketball pick.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Baylor -1.5
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

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