Las Vegas Classic Match-up: #6 Baylor takes on West Virginia

Perry Jones III leads undefeated Baylor vs. West Virginia in the final night of the Las Vegas Classic.

With the final night of NCAA College Basketball on tap before a 4-day holiday hiatus, we’re looking to the best match-up of the evening between the undefeated, 6th-ranked Baylor Bears (11-0) and the West Virginia Mountaineers (9-2), as the best option for online sports betting on College Hoops for Friday.

The Baylor Bears are one of only 6 undefeated teams remaining in NCAA Division I play this season, and with a win tonight could match their school’s record-best start at 12-0, last accomplished during the 2001-2 season. Baylor moves into tonight’s match-up fresh off a solid 72-59 defeat of St. Mary’s, in a game which they led from start to finish behind leading scorer Perry Jones III’s 14 points and 9 rebounds, followed by solid games from freshman Percy Miller (15 points) and Quincy Acy (12 points, 10 rebounds). Baylor’s key on offense has been just what played out in last night’s game; getting all parties involved in the scoring, and not relying too heavily on one individual to produce points while moving the ball around for the best shooting looks. Adding to the balance of scoring, the Bears have also excelled in the shooting game, boasting a squad that is shooting lights out at 50.5 percent from the floor on the year, good for 8th in the nation. Averaging a solid 79.3 points per contest (25th), along with impressive rebounding (39.6/game, 26th in the nation) and assist figures (16.1/game, also ranked 26th), this is perhaps the most well-balanced Baylor squad in more than a decade, if not ever. Not only that, but Baylor has been playing very well on defense, holding opponents to just 57.4 points per contest while holding opposing offenses to one of lowest average shooting percentages in the country. Baylor runs a tough-to-crack zone defense which can vary from 2-3 to 3-2 to 4-1 depending on opposing offenses’ strengths. With good size throughout the lineup, a starting 5 that is all averaging double figures in scoring, and one of the best defenses in the country, this Baylor team is certainly one that contend with the best in the land on any given night.

For Bob Huggins and his West Virginia Mountaineers to have success tonight against such a talented Baylor team, they’ll need to have scoring contributions run deeper into their line-up, as WVU has hedged strongly on star senior forward Kevin Jones (20.4 points, 11.5 rebounds/game) to pull them through most games so far this year. Last night’s squeaky 70-68 overtime win over Missouri State did see some progress in that department as 4 Mountaineers went into double figures, but the win should also serve as a wake-up call to play better; WVU found itself trailing by as much as 10 into the second half, while shooting pitifully from the free-throw line (8-15, 53.3 percent) and turning the ball over 17 times to a 2nd-tier school in Missouri State. Not capitalizing on the free-throw stripe, and giving Baylor free possessions will quickly end WVU’s night tonight, as there’s no question that the Bears will be looking to exploit any weaknesses shown by the Mountaineers, and quickly turn them into points. Therefore, WVU is going to have to rely on setting up good plays in the face of a solid Baylor defense, getting better shooting performances out of guys like Darryl Bryant around the arc (16.4 points/game, but just 41 percent shooting), and find some step-up play from freshmen Gary Browne (6.5 points) and Jabarie Hinds (7.5 points/game), to help contribute to the scoring line.
Baylor certainly has a big advantage in terms of height and overall skill coming into tonight’s match-up, and position-by-position the Bears look to be better throughout the entire line-up in opposition to West Virginia. While these teams appear very evenly matched along key offensive stats including points, rebounds and assists per game, the two defining areas of difference lie in the shooting percentage and team defense between these two squads. Baylor’s defense has been the key contributor to the Bears outscoring opponents by almost 22 points per contest, and matches up well against a WVU team that is prone to turnovers, and doesn’t shoot very well in the face of good defensive pressure. For West Virginia to prevail tonight and win their sixth straight contest, they are going to need to be much better on defense themselves, as Baylor won’t be letting up on offense with so many talented scorers, and also choose their shots much more wisely. That could prove difficult for a team with 8 freshmen on the roster, especially if Baylor hones in on shutting down the two senior leading scorers in Kevin Jones and Darryl Bryant, and forces the younger players to handle the ball more often.

Betting Lines for #6 Baylor vs. West Virginia

Hitting up Intertops Sportsbook today for the betting lines on tonight’s featured NCAA Hoops match-up, Baylor steps out as a -230 favorite on the money line, with West Virginia getting the underdog nod at +190 odds. Baylor needs to cover 5 points against the spread at -115 odds, while the Mountaineers get 5 points to play with at -105 odds. With two very well coached teams on neutral turf, the bookmakers are definitely expecting this game to be closer than what would be expected given the breakdown on these two squads, but with neither showing their best form in their brief stints on the road, it’s fair to say this will be a close contest tonight. With the over/under hedged at 134 total points, it’s looking like the first team to 70 wins tonight’s contest, and if Baylor is the pick to win outright, chances are good they’ll do it with enough defensive pressure to keep under the 134 mark.

Our Pick to Win:

Baylor is the real deal this season, despite not having the most difficult opponents’ schedule to kick off the 2011-12 NCAA Basketball campaign. Their size, defense, and depth has them already looking like a contender that can go deep in this year’s tournament. However, its games like these against well-coached opponents that will further determine how well the Bears play down the road. WVU is a good squad no doubt, but their youth and their propensity to turn the ball over and not capitalize at the free-throw line hurts their chances in games like these. While we expect a good run from the Mountaineers, they are simply outclassed on the court in this neutral location game. Baylor uses its outstanding defense to aggravate WVU into making too many mistakes tonight, and behind leading scorer Perry Jones III, the Bears will be leaving Las Vegas with a school-tying 12th victory in a row to start the 2011-12 season. Baylor 75, WVU 63.

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