Texas-West Virginia Preview

After two regular season wins over the Mountaineers, what will it take for the Longhorns to get a third at the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City?

This Season's Matchups

If we learned one thing from the first two matchups of Texas and West Virginia, it's that the Longhorns are a brutally tough matchup for the smaller Mountaineers.

Texas claimed a pair of double-digit victories over West Virginia, winning 80-69 in Morgantown and claiming an 88-71 win in Austin. But perhaps more impressive than the victory margins were the rebound margins. In the two games combined, the Longhorns gobbled up 34 more rebounds than the Mountaineers.

Texas's size advantage was key in both games, as was the play of Javan Felix. Felix led Texas in scoring with 19 points in Morgantown, and he paced the 'Horns with 18 in Austin. Cameron Ridley had a 12-point, 12-rebound performance in the first game, then had a 17-point, six-board showing in the second.

On The Mountaineers

In a league that's packed with do-it-all guards, Juwan Staten (6-1 190) is as good as anyone. In conference play, Staten led the Big 12 in scoring with 19.9 points per game and was second in assists at 5.7 assists per contest, while also grabbing 5.6 rebounds per game and finishing on the Big 12 All-Defense team. But he's one of those players whose true impact is difficult to measure via statistics. Perhaps the best way is to look at West Virginia's Adjusted Offensive Rating, good for 15th nationally. Considering that Staten is one of the few players capable of creating shots, it really gives a glimpse into what he's able to do.

Staten's ability to drive and kick only serves to make a catch-and-shoot guys like Eron Harris (6-3 195) and Remi Dibo (6-7 225). Both are making better than 40 percent of their three-point attempts this season. Dibo gives West Virginia versatility in that he can play both the three in a bigger lineup or the four when the Mountaineers go four-out. Of late, Nathan Adrian (6-9 230) has been a solid pairing with Devin Williams (6-9 255), with the two freshman bigs giving West Virginia more size options than they seemed to have earlier in the year. Adrian has given a nice defensive boost, while Williams is coming off the best game of his career, when he scored 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds against a Joel Embiid-less Kansas.

Still, West Virginia seems most comfortable with Dibo at the four and rotating through wings like Gary Browne (6-1 195) and Terry Henderson (6-4 200) with Harris. All benefit from Staten's ability to create.

Kevin Noreen (6-10 250) brings another plus-sized guy off the bench. He had a string of starts to open the year, though eventually he was pushed into less time as the younger posts developed. West Virginia's third-most used lineup over the last five games has been to pair Noreen with Williams, giving the team plenty of size.

Brandon Watkins (6-9 235) is another good-sized freshman that they can add as a fourth big.

There isn't any secret where West Virginia needs to improve. The Mountaineers rank 168th nationally in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, and their in-conference defense allowed a horrid 1.13 points per possession, the second-worst mark in the league. And that came by allowing opponents an Effective Field Goal percentage of 53.3 percent, worst in the Big 12.

How Can Texas Win?

Texas doesn't have to recreate the wheel here. The Longhorns have an obvious advantage inside and on the boards, which also leads to open shots for Felix from the outside.

Don't overthink things offensively, get the ball inside and work inside out.

On the other end, Texas needs to stay in front of Staten, cut off his routes to the basket or into the middle of the key where he presents a scoring threat for himself and others. And while it's impossible to keep Staten out of the lane all game, Texas needs to close out on shooters when he is able to penetrate and pitch.

This is a matchup that Texas did well with all season. And while it's tough to beat any team three times, Texas certainly has the pieces to make it happen.

Horns Digest Top Stories