If Tuesday afternoon’s showdown between No. 3 Baylor and No. 6 West Virginia was any indication, we’re in for a wild March, as the Bears got back on track and won the Big 12 regular season title in dramatic fashion by outlasting the Mountaineers 94-89 in overtime on the road. Though it was anything but certain until the final 20 seconds, the victory should bring some measure of relief to Bears fans wondering if their team could regain the form it enjoyed during its 17-0 start before a three-week layoff due to COVID-19 protocols or would it lose its second straight game.
Baylor’s Big 12 title is its first in program history, and securing it on the road against a top-10 team showed the Bears (19-1, 11-1) are still serious contenders for a national title, too. That seemed anything but certain after Baylor lost 71-58 at No. 17 Kansas on Saturday on the heels of a lackluster win over lowly Iowa State last Tuesday. But the WVU game was the team’s third back after their 21-day break between games, and it was the best the Bears have looked before the layoff.
The win came with its share of controversy after a questionable charge call on West Virginia’s Miles McBride with 27 seconds left all but ended the Mountaineers’ chances. Davion Mitchell then hit a pair of free throws with 18 seconds left to put the Bears up five points, and the Mountaineers (17-7, 10-5 Big 12) did not score again.
Mitchell and Jared Butler combined to score 45 points for Baylor, but a surprise hero was Matthew Mayer. The junior forward came off the bench to tie his career-high with 18 points, and 15 of them came in the second half after West Virginia opened up a 50-43 lead at the 13:54 mark.
Baylor is the third projected No. 1 seed in Jerry Palm’s latest Bracketology, and the Mountaineers are projected as a No. 2 seed. Neither team is expected to move because of Tuesday’s outcome. That may be disappointing news for Bears fans hoping to see their team hop back ahead of Michigan for the second overall seed behind Gonzaga. But what was most important Tuesday is that Baylor finally started to look like itself again.