Interim head coach Chris Walker has done a respectable job in picking up the pieces of the Billy Gillespie fiasco, which was brought to a merciful close when the embattled coach resigned in mid-September, but many of Tech's nine wins have come against less than stellar competition. The Red Raiders rode a favorable early season schedule (a school record 11 consecutive home games to open the season) to get some wins, but do own an upset over Iowa State as a highlight in conference play. They have lost five of their last six, but five of those games came against teams in the Top 50 of the RPI.
Forward Jaye Crockett (Jr., 6-7, lbs.), who has started only one game this season, leads the team in both scoring (13.1) and rebounding (8.0). He's a backup in name only, as he also plays more minutes per game (26.2) than any other Red Raider. He's one of the top sixth men in the country, and provides some match-up problems when he enters the game.
Tech has some strength on the inside, where Dejan Kravis (Jr., 6-11, 240 lbs.) and Jordan Tolbert (So., 6-7, 225 lbs.) each average nine points per game. Neither has attempted a three pointer, but both are well over 50% from the field, and also combine to average more than 11 rebounds per game, while rejecting a total of 41 shots between them.
Freshman Josh Gray (6-1, 175 lbs.) leads the starting guard threesome with 9.3 points per game gait, while Dusty Hannahs (Fr., 6-4, 210 lbs.) and Jamal Williams (Fr., 6-4, 190 lbs.) add 6.7 and 5.3 points, respectively. Williams is the team's best three-point threat, hitting 35% of his tries on the season. However, none of the guards are particularly adept at handling the ball, so West Virginia might be able to apply more pressure in both the back and frontcourts in an attempt to create more turnovers. As a team, the Red Raiders have given it away 82 more times than they have dished out assists.
Junior Daylen Robinson and freshman Toddrick Gotcher (6-4, 195 lbs.) also make substantial minutes contributions in the backcourt. Robinson (6-0, 175 lbs.) averages 4.2 points and 2.1 rebounds in more than 19 minutes per game, while Gotcher chips in with 2.7 points.
To be blunt, Tech is mediocre. However, West Virginia can't be characterized as much better, if at all. But if the Mountaineers entertain any hopes of postseason play, this is a game they have to win.
1:30 PM E
United Spirit Arena
WVU 9-11, 2-5
TT 9-9, 2-5
Big 12 Net
WVU - 106
TT - 198
"You guys ask me that over and over, but how the hell do I know?" Huggins responded, not unkindly, to yet another question about the mindset of his team. The players themselves were just as perplexed, with "I don't know" the operative response when asked if they understood that they level of effort they showed against Kansas would have resulted in four or five more wins had it been present against other, lesser opponents.
If the players don't recognize the problem, it's unlikely they can fix it, but they have yet another chance in this contest. Tech doesn't have the firepower to overwhelm foes with scoring, and is clearly in the midst of a restructuring process. Will the Mountaineers play with the effort and focus they did against the Jayhawks? Or will it be another ho-hum, just-show-up deal like the Purdue contest>
If West Virginia can't get a win in this road game, there's simply not much to look forward to the rest of the season, unless a road win over TCU or a home victory over a struggling Texas team is enough.
WVU head coach Bob Huggins hasn't given up on the season. He noted that a ten-game winning streak would put the Mountaineers at 19-11, and perhaps on the bubble for NCAA consideration. Of course, such a win streak would include wins over Kansas, Baylor (twice) and Oklahoma State.
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Upheaval in the Red Raider program didn't end with Gillespie's departure. Forward Trency Jackson, who averaged 6.6 points through 12 games this year, was suspended by Texas Tech and subsequently declared academically ineligible by the NCAA for the remainder of the 2013 season.
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Freshman Eron Harris has started the last five games for WVU. During that stretch, he's been WVU's leading scorer in three of its last four games, averaging 13.0 points per game. Defensive deficiencies have put him on the bench for some stretches, but he has clearly been on an improvement path during his few months in Morgantown.
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Tech interim head coach Chris Walker has familiarity with West Virginia. He was an assistant coach at Villanova from 2009-11 under head coach Jay Wright.