How long has it been since the last time Baylor lost a basketball game?
When the Bears fell to Washington on Nov. 8, they officially had more losses than their 8-0 football team.
Baylor (23-1, 11-0 Big 12) has not had a blemish since, and as a result has occupied the No. 1 spot in the AP Poll for the past four weeks.
It has been an unlikely ascent to the top of the mountain for a program that has not won a conference title since 1950. Power forward Mario Kegler, a projected all-conference pick, was kicked off the team right before the start of preseason practices.
Despite losing their biggest and arguably best player, Baylor coach Scott Drew has figured out a way to get his team to play a highly effective brand of small ball.
“Sometimes less is more,” opined West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “That’s happened to all of us at some point in our careers, where you lose a couple guys and think ‘oh my goodness’ and you have a couple guys step up and prove they are what you think they are.
“People lose star players and all of the sudden the whole becomes better.”
In Huggins’ opinion, Baylor plays the best man-to-man defense he has seen this season. The Bears rank fifth nationally with 58.3 points per game allowed.
It’s a dramatic change in philosophy from Drew, who for many years built around a zone defense.
“He’s a good coach,” Huggins said. “Good coaches try to accentuate the positive and stay away from the negative. He’s got a guy in [Mark] Vital who can guard anybody – a 7 footer or a 5-foot-6 guy.”
None of that bodes well for a West Virginia offense that went the final 5:07 without scoring in a 58-49 loss to No. 3 Kansas on Wednesday night.
The No. 14 Mountaineers (18-6, 6-5) limp into Waco on a two-game losing streak and have shot below 32 percent from the field in both defeats.
No. 14 West Virginia (18-6, 6-5) at No. 1 Baylor (23-1, 11-0)
4 p.m., Ferrell Center
TV: Streaming only (ESPN-Plus)
Last meeting: Baylor beat WVU, 82-75 on Feb. 23, 2019