Texas Tech and West Virginia are home to two of the toughest cultures in college basketball. Want to go play basketball for Bob Huggins? Expect a lot of tough coaching, running, and public criticism from fans and coaches alike to follow you if you do not play well. Want to play for Chris Beard? Expect a lot of tough coaching, running, and criticism from a fanbase that can get pretty passionate when discussing their players.
Both teams win though, and both teams typically play very good defense. That’s why the last two meetings between these teams have been so bizarre. Last year, Tech won the second match 89-81 and posted their second highest offensive rating of the year. The win was probably the best one for Tech in conference play, only rivaled by a dominant home win over TCU and a road win in Austin.
This year, West Virginia claimed the first match in thrilling fashion, winning 88-87 off a Deuce McBride game winner. Mac McClung went off in the first meeting, dropping 30 points, but missed a potential buzzer beater as time expired. The loss dropped Tech to 4-4 in conference, but since then they have won three straight games and are now 6-4 in conference. Tonight’s matchup should be another exciting one, so let’s get into the preview:
West Virginia Mountaineers (13-5) vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders (14-5)
Location: United Supermarkets Arena (Lubbock, Texas)
Game time: 8:00 CST
Odds: Texas Tech -6
About West Virginia
Kenpom Ranking: 19th
Three players to watch:
The combo guard more commonly known as Deuce has been exceptional this year. McBride is averaging 15.8 points, 4.6 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per game this season. More impressively- his efficiency has risen dramatically. He is shooting 53% from three in nine conference games, has a much better assist to turnover ratio than last year, and his overall shot quality is clearly better this year. He is also a decent defender, though his steal numbers get slightly inflated due to his risky style of play.
In the first matchup between these two teams, Deuce had 24 points on only 12 shots, with 19 of those points coming in the final eight minutes of the game. He did not miss a shot in that timeframe. Containing him off the dribble will be essential if Tech wants to have any success in this game.
Sherman is an elite scorer at the college level. He is shooting 40% from three on over four attempts per game, and his TS% of 57% leads the rotation members for West Virginia. He does not do much outside of scoring, but his ability to shoot from different locations and create his own shot makes him a valuable piece and one that Tech needs to stop.
Derek Culver is easily the least modern player in the Big 12 this year. He’s a 6’10 guy that cannot really jump, does not block shots, does not play much in the PnR, and he has not hit a three pointer in his entire career at WVU. Why is he so highly rated by people? Because he can rebound and get buckets from the post. He shoots 11 two point shots per game, and his ability to get to the free throw line is also incredible, as he has shot 437 free throws in his career, although he has never shot them well, making no more than 58% of his foul shots at any point in his tenure as a Mountaineer. Containing Culver will be a major emphasis for Tech, even if his style of play is the antithesis of modern college basketball.
Team stat to watch: Three Point Shooting
West Virginia is an extremely streaky shooting team. They shot 63% from three in the last game against Tech... yet immediately followed that up by shooting 8-28 from range against a mediocre Florida team. They have had three games in Big 12 play where they drained at least ten threes on over 50% efficiency, but they also have six games this year shooting under 30% from outside. Guarding the perimeter will be essential against West Virginia, as without Oscar Tshiebwe their interior presence is no longer so daunting. If Tech can keep the Mountaineers under 40% I think they have a solid chance of winning this game.
About Texas Tech:
Kenpom Ranking: 16th
Three players to watch:
McClung has been dynamite for Tech in Big 12 play, as he leads the league in scoring during conference season. His last game against West Virginia was sensational, as he dropped 30 points on 11-21 shooting, although as previously stated he was unable to hit the game winner. McClung has cooled off in the last two games, but continues to create great looks for himself. Tech needs a great game from him tonight to maximize their opportunity to win.
McCullar was great in the two games last week, having an outstanding overall game vs. Oklahoma and following it up with a great shooting day in the Kansas State game. He went 5-7 shooting from deep, which is a stark contrast to the 2-15 start that he began the season with. McCullar went just 1-8 in the first game against West Virginia, which was probably his worst performance of the year so far. I expect a much better game from him in this one. One thing to watch: his assist numbers are way up, as he is averaging triple the number of assists that he did in Big 12 play last year. He has always been a capable ball handler, but after a year of development, it seems we are seeing more of the playmaking ability that he had in high school.
Chris Beard shocked everyone by giving Clarence Nadolny 16 minutes of playing time in the last game against West Virginia. It was the first time he had received over 15 minutes of playing time in his career, and the first time playing more than ten minutes in any Big 12 game. He responded well, as he put up three assists and played solid team defense. Since then, Nadolny has played at least ten minutes in two of the last three games, and his shotmaking continues to improve. Something tells me tonight may be Nadolny’s best game yet.
Team stat to watch: Free Throws
Last time these teams met was a strange affair. Tech made more shots and only turned the ball over twice. Usually, that results in a win for a good guys. Yet they lost. Why? Because they did not get to the line anywhere near as often as West Virginia did. West Virginia shot 27 free throws, while Tech shot only 12, which was their second lowest mark of the season. Getting to the line usually results for a win for Tech, as they are 13-1 with a free throw rate over 30. If they win the free throw battle tonight, they will probably win. Hopefully the team is aggressive in seeking contact and the officials call it.