MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - For the time being, it's convenient to say things would be different for West Virginia if Elijah Macon and Jonathan Holton were eligible to play.
The Mountaineers are allowing the highest shooting percentage in the Big 12, and that has a lot to do with giving up a ton of points in the paint. That can then be traced to WVU ranking ninth in rebounding margin and eighth in blocked shots.
So, sure, things might be different if the 6-foot-7, 210-pound Holton, who led junior college in rebounding, and the 6-9, 240-pound Macon could play and help WVU (15-11, 7-6 Big 12) compete better in the areas it comes up short.
For now, it's a waste of time to think about what might have been. But for those wondering about what it might be like next season and beyond, behold the visitors Saturday and Baylor's Cory Jefferson. The 6-9, 220-pound fifth-year senior took a developmental redshirt in 2010-11 and leads the Bears (17-9, 5-8) in scoring and rebounding.
"That definitely worked out well, didn't it?" coach Scott Drew said.
Jefferson was a spare part as a freshman, a spindly kid from Killeen, Texas, who played fewer than five minutes per game in 21 games and averaged 1.3 points and 1.2 rebounds as the Bears reached the Elite Eight.
None of that figured to change too much the next season. The Bears had Quincy Acy and Perry Jones III, both of whom now are in the NBA, in the frontcourt and 6-11, 275-pound J'Mison Morgan and 6-10, 200-pound Anthony Jones off the bench.
"He was one of the players who was good enough to play for us, but he was behind more experienced veteran players," Drew said. "He was obviously very talented, but asking him to redshirt was an opportunity to practice every day and get better and, most of all, physically improve. Cory was someone who came in with a slight build. Now, five years later, he looks like Superman. He's done a great job in the weight room.
Jefferson was a 170-pound freshman who added 10 pounds of muscle alone sitting out one year. He's 50 pounds heavier now with much more muscle.
Like Holton this season, Jefferson could practice with the Baylor team that missed the postseason in 2011. But since he didn't play and wasn't traveling, he could work out more often than the teammates who did play and couldn't wear out their bodies with repeated workouts throughout the season.