The No. 22 Texas Tech Red Raiders will face the No. 17 West Virginia Mountaineers in a battle of two ranked teams tomorrow afternoon in Morgantown, West Virginia. Both teams have had up and down week, with both beating Oklahoma State and losing to their last ranked opponent, Texas Tech to No. 4 Baylor on Tuesday by a score of 57-52, and West Virginia last Saturday to now No. 3 Kansas by a score of 60-53.
These two teams have different styles and ways of dominating their opponents. Texas Tech uses their athleticism and guard play to get baskets and kick-out three point shots and when that doesn’t work, the ball goes to Jahmi’us Ramsey to create for himself. West Virginia relies on it’s tough interior defense led by Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver to stop teams in the paint, get offensive rebounds, and out-tough the other team. Both styles have worked so far this season and both will face off tomorrow night.
The Mountaineers are led by Head Coach and Hall of Famer Bob Huggins. Huggins needs no introduction and will say whatever is on his mind about officiating. This Mountaineers team has the physicality that has been missing from West Virginia basketball for some years now and they can really run the type of system that Huggins likes to run.
The big thing of note for this team is their depth. They run 11 to even 12 guys onto the court in one night as all 12 men in their rotation are averaging 7.8 minutes or more and nobody plays over 25 minutes per night. They will be fresh and ready to go all game long.
But like I said earlier, it starts with the front court and their two forwards. Oscar Tchiebwe has arguably been one of the best freshman forwards in the country. He is averaging 12.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Tshiebwe is very good at bullying people in the paint and is an excellent rebounder, especially on the offensive end of the floor. His size and athleticism at that position will be hard for Texas Tech to defend.
He is just as lethal on the defensive end as well as Tshiebwe blocks over 1 shot per game and is a solid rim portector for the Mountaineers. I foresee T.J. Holyfield getting the first run at guarding him but look for Russell Tchewa to maybe get a couple of minutes in an attempt to slow him down if Tshiebwe gets going early on.
The other big man Tech has to worry about it Derek Culver. He has also been very good this season in the paint as he is averaging 10.4 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. He has a similar skill set to Tshiebwe as Culver also looks to bully people in the paint and collect offensive boards.
These two on the floor make a lot of trouble for the Red Raiders as they do not have the size to compete with the Mountaineers. Tech will have to counter with a bunch of athletes on the floor and making sure they drive to the basket and not settle for outside shots. T.J. Holyfield will have a big role in this game. He doesn’t have to score at an incredible rate to be effective in this game, he simply needs to play outside the arc enough to pull Tshiebwe away from the basket and allow the more athletic guys to have a clean run at the rim.
Another Red Raider who will need to have a good night is Davide Moretti. This guy had a really bad game last time out and has not had the great season everyone seemed to project for him. His shooting needs to improve from everywhere and the stupid turnovers need to be fixed. I personally think Moretti is a little bit in his head right now and all he needs is a new mindset to fix this slump he’s been in.
It will definitely be a clash of two different styles tomorrow in Morgantown. The Red Raiders have struggled against really good big men but the Mountaineers simply do not have the athletes to keep up with Texas Tech’s. My prediction is that Texas Tech simply cannot keep up with the rebounding of Tshiebwe and Culver and coupled with another off night offensively, the Mountaineers will ultimately win this one.