Baylor is now 0-1 as No. 1.
The top-ranked Bears were dominated by No. 10 West Virginia, 89-68, on Tuesday night in Morgantown in the program’s first-ever game being ranked No. 1 as they left Gonzaga as the country’s lone undefeated team.
West Virginia dominated for long stretches, but really put the Bears away in the second half, outscoring them 50-36. Press Virginia forced 29 Baylor turnovers.
Here are four things we learned from the game:
1. West Virginia is some bad dudes: I say that with the utmost respect, and certainly mean it as a compliment. West Virginia basketball is a 40-minute all-out assault. Forcing 29 turnovers from the nation’s No. 1 team is incredible. The Mountaineers’ intensity, aggressiveness and physicality makes them a nightmare for any team to play.
It also might be time to start looking at West Virginia as national title contender. As of this writing Tuesday evening, they’ve got a KenPom top-five offense and defense. The Mountaineers are shooting it better than other iterations of Bob Huggins’ Press Virginia teams, and that makes them dangerous.
They’ve now beaten Virginia by double-digits on the road and the country’s No. 1 team by 21 at home. That’s what Final Four teams look like.
2. This doesn’t really change anything about Baylor: Yes, the Bears are ranked as the No. 1 team in the country, but they were definitive underdogs in Morgantown. Getting beat in the WVU Coliseum, even by 21 points, doesn’t expose them as frauds or invalidate their heretofore perfect start.
It does, though, illustrate some weaknesses they have Outside of Manu Lecomte, the Bears’ ballhandling is pretty shaky and that’s what led to a lot of their troubles. You can’t be iffy with the ball against West Virginia and expect to keep it close, let alone leave with a win.
The Bears also didn’t respond well to the physicality of the game, either. West Virginia is just going to out-tough a lot of people this year, but Baylor just couldn’t respond at all. That’s a little concerning, but not by itself a major indictment given, as previously noted, West Virginia is some bad dudes.
3. The Big 12 is going to be a grind: The ACC probably has more really good teams, but the Big 12 is going to be an absolute monster for teams to navigate this season. West Virginia lost on the road to Texas Tech, which hasn’t finished higher than seventh in the league since Bob Knight was the coach, and then turned around and smashed No. 1 Baylor. There doesn’t look to be any gimmes in the league, especially when the likes of Oklahoma and Texas might be the weakest in the league.
Coming into the year, the thought was the Big 12 was going to take a step back. It’s clear that’s not the case.
4. Get rid of the hanging-on-the-rim technical foul: It’s time, right?
Daxter Miles, Jr. got tagged with a T for pulling himself up on the rim some on a tip-dunk that put the exclamation point on the evening in a statement performance by West Virginia. It looked awesome and was awesome. So, of course, Miles got penalized for it with a technical foul and some less than happy words from Huggins.
The spirit of the rule has its heart in the right place to preserve sportsmanship, but in 2017, it feels a little antiquated. For a sport that needs as much pizzazz and buzz as possible, adding a little extra flair to a dunk isn’t a bad thing.
Saddling a guy with an extra foul and giving the opposition free throws seems like overkill as a punishment anyway. If a team sees a guy swinging on the rim, get the ball and get down the floor for a transition opportunity. That seems like punishment enough.
And as an avowed #TeamTrashTalk member, I can only heartily endorse a player emphasizing the awesomeness of his dunk.
Ban the hanging-on-the-rim technical.