This Valentine’s Day, everyone is looking for that special “other half,” that elusive “missing piece” that makes one whole.
Corniness aside, we think it’s happening across college basketball, too. Let’s take a look at some teams who are looking for something special on this February 14th and play matchmaker. What is each team looking for? We think we’ve found the perfect counterpart.
Baylor and Perry Jones III’s Toughness
Last week, it looked like Baylor had finally fallen from the ranks of the elite, a rarified realm occupied by Kentucky, Missouri, Syracuse, Kansas, and a few others.
Part of the reason for that, along with Scott Drew’s reluctance to abandon the zone defense, is Perry Jones III’s absence against big-time competition.
To his credit, he had a strong showing against Iowa State on Monday night, but his lack of production against other Big 12 powers, including a combined 3-of-20 this past week against Missouri and Kansas, weakens the confidence that many have in Baylor, heading into March.
West Virginia and Production from Someone Other than Kevin Jones
Bob Huggins has lamented the immaturity of his young Mountaineers, defending star senior and Big East Player of the Year frontrunner Kevin Jones. While Jones is averaging nearly 21 points and 11 rebounds per game, the otherwise young and/or inconsistent lineup has West Virginia on the bubble for the NCAA tournament.
Take, for example, senior guard Truck Bryant. After scoring 32 points in an overtime win on the road at Providence, Bryant has gone 3-of-23 from the field in the past two, both narrow Mountaineer losses.
Syracuse and Consistent Rebounding
With Fab Melo anchoring the middle and averaging close to six rebounds, coach Jim Boeheim has stressed that Syracuse doesn’t necessarily need a dominating performance on the boards from one player to win.
Rather, the Orange would prefer a patchwork of rebounding like they got Monday night against Louisville, where six players had at least five rebounds, including five apiece from guards Scoop Jardine, Dion Waiters, and Brandon Triche.
If Syracuse can lock down on the boards, their transition game is lethal enough to carry them in March.
Kansas and Jeff Withey’s Continued Production
Alongside Missouri, Kansas has emerged as the contender in the Big 12. The obvious reason is Thomas Robinson’s National Player of the Year-type season, but Withey’s presence cannot be ignored.
Over the past three games, he is averaging and astounding 20 points and 12 rebounds, including 18 points and 11 rebounds on Monday night in a big road win over Kansas State.
Withey’s emergence forces teams to turn their focus away from Robinson. If he keeps this up, defenses won’t be able to collapse and smother Robinson, because Withey is showing that he can be a legitimate second scoring option in the post.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_