1) At first glance, this matchup favors Texas BIG
What's the one thing that Texas (8-6) does well? Hold teams to poor field goal percentages. The Longhorns are still tops in the nation in effective field goal percentage (eFG%) defense, a result of holding teams to just 38.6 percent shooting on their two-point attempts (third nationally) and 22.6 percent on their threes (first).
And if there's one thing that West Virginia (7-6) does poorly, it's shoot the ball. The Mountaineers have an eFG% of 43.8 percent, 305th in the country. They make 44.1 percent of their two-point attempts (282nd) and 28.7 percent of their threes (304th). Out of West Virginia's regular three-point shooters, Eron Harris (6-2 190) is the top percentage shooter at just 37 percent.
When you add in the fact that Texas's troublesome shooting (295th in eFG%) gets a bit of a break by going against the nation's 207th eFG% defense, it's really a matchup that really seems to set up perfectly for the Longhorns.
2) So, um, how did West Virginia win seven?
Well, the Mountaineers have a top-third defense, buoyed by a strong steal percentage (21st) and block percentage (49th). And while West Virginia doesn't shoot well, they are strong-to-decent in three offensive categories.
* They snatch up 38.6 percent of the available offensive rebounds, 25th best nationally. Aaric Murray (6-10 245) and Deniz Kilicli (6-9 260) give the starting lineup plenty of size and bulk, while Kevin Noreen (6-10 250) provides another big body and tremendous rebounder off the bench. All three of them haul in better than 11 percent of the available offensive boards.
* They only turn the ball over on 17.7 percent of their possessions, 37th in the nation. West Virginia goes with a three-guard lineup, so it makes sense that one of the places they see the benefit of that is in the team's ball-handling.
* And the Mountaineers are a top-third team in free throw rate. That trait comes in handy in that the Mountaineers' shooting woes apparently don't translate to the free throw line, where West Virginia shoots 72.0 percent, the 87th-best rate in the country.
3) Let's talk individuals
The top two honors candidates for the Mountaineers are sophomore point guard Juwan Staten (6-1 190) and Murray, a sophomore center. Staten is a non-entity from deep, taking just six threes all season and missing all of them. But he does a nice job of getting into the lane and drawing fouls. He leads West Virginia in scoring (11.0 points per game) and assists (3.2 assists per game).
Murray is second in scoring (10.5) and first in rebounding (7.5). He can stretch a defense as well, as he takes more than a three-pointer per game, and he's hitting just better than 35 percent of those attempts.
Gary Browne (6-1 190) is a rugged off guard who is one of the best in the nation at getting to the free throw line, drawing 6.3 fouls per 40 minutes, a mark that is 58th best in the nation. And Kilicli is another guy who majors at getting to the line, drawing 6.0 fouls per 40 minutes (93rd). Browne scores 8.3 points per game, while Kilicli chips in 7.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per contest.
Henderson (6-3 190) is the shooter, scoring 8.8 points per game as a wing player.