Preview: WVU - Oklahoma

West Virginia could lock up an NIT bid and keep its very faint NCAA hopes alive with a win at Oklahoma, but getting a season sweep over the Sooners will be a difficult task -- one that will likely be decided at the 3-point line.

UPDATING THE SOONERS

Oklahoma has performed much as the other upper echelon teams in the league down the stretch. Since falling to the Mountaineers in overtime one month ago, OU is 4-2, completing a season sweep of Bedlam while knocking off Texas and K-State. Losses to Kansas (understandable) and Texas Tech have hurt a bit, but OU is still set for a top five seed in the NCAA tournament if it can finish the season with wins against the Mountaineers and TCU.

The Sooners continue to ride a three-guard attack, with Buddy Hield (So., G, 6-4) having ramped up his play against league opponents. He's averaging 16.7 points per game overall, and is also a tough defender, tallying 1.4 steals per game. It won't be a surprise to see him match up defensively against Juwan Staten on occasion, even though freshman Jordan Woodard (6-0) is more similar in size and quickness.

Ryan Spangler has done a lot of work on the inside and in the midrange for OU. The 6-8 transfer is averaging 10.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per outing, and finds niches and cracks in the defense to get to the glass. He's nicely balanced by Cameron Clark, who's averaging 15 ppg and steps out to hit the three when teams don't challenge him.

OU continues to go primarily with an eight-man rotation, woth a forward and two guards coming off the bench to complete all but a handful of minutes. They've been at home since Feb. 25, while the Mountaineers will be making their second jaunt to the midwest over the same stretch.

OUTLOOK

The first game between the two teams was a tale of two halves, as WVU ran out to an 11-point lead at the break, only to give up 49 points in the second. Eron Harris did his best gunslinger act in shooting down OU's hopes of getting a win on the road, but the Mountaineers can't count on him hitting bullseyes like Vasily Zaytsev to bail them out of impossible situations.

BlueGoldNews.com
Game Info
Wed Mar 5
9:00 PM E

Noble Center
Norman, OK
Records
WVU 16-13, 8-8
OU 21-8, 10-6
Series
OU 4-2
TV
ESPNU
Sirius/XM: 91/91
RPI
WVU - 88
OU - 17
In order to get a road win to keep its barely flickering NCAA hopes alive, West Virginia has to shoot the ball well. Better defense would be nice, but at this point in the season it's hard to picture the Mountaineers dredging up even an average defensive performance.

There are a couple of things to watch on that end of the court, though. The Mountaineers went to a 3-2 defense for much of the TCU game, with Nathan Adrian manning the middle up top between the guards. Adrian's length allows the guards to get out more to the wings to cover perimeter shooters while he cuts down on passing lanes to the interior. OU has six players in its rotation who can hit threes, however, so expecting a zone, even a perimeter-oriented one, to cover all of them might be a bit of a stretch.

Still, with Spangler the only dominant inside scorer, WVU might resort to a zone with only two players on the blocks in order to get more defenders out to the 3-point line. (OU has been outscored in the lane by 119 points this year, but its top six scorers on the season are shooting a combined 43.7% at home from distance. A pack line defense would seem to be indicated here, but the Mountaineers have so much trouble with defensive fundamentals, such a look isn't in the cards for them.

That leaves scoring, which West Virginia is able to do. What it can't afford to do, though, is suffer a four- or five minute drought where it only puts up a couple of points. With the defense unable to manufacture such stretches on the other end, the only way WVU can stay in the game is to shoot the ball consistently and not waste any possessions. Those are things the Mountaineers are capable of, but they can't be dragged down by extended scoreless streaks.

The other item to track is the status of Terry Henderson, who is making the trip to Oklahoma. There is no word on his availability, or whether he will dress or play. While WVU could use some scoring from the sophomore, it's hard to think that he will be able to play major minutes.

FAST BREAKS

Hopefully they aren't focusing on this (and it's doubtful if they are), but Juwan Staten and Eron Harris are in the tightest of races for the team scoring lead. Staten, with 523 points, holds an edge of just one point over Harris.

That works out to an average of 18.034 points per game for Staten, and an even 18.000 for Harris.

* * *

If asked, most Big 12 observers might guess that Iowa State leads the league in 3-pointers per conference game. However, it's actually OU, with 8.8 treys per Big 12 contest, that is atop the standings. That has contributed greatly to Oklahoma's 82.3 ppg average this year.

* * *

West Virginia's defense has gotten its share of criticism this year, but Oklahoma's might be worse. The reasons for the Sooners' defensive issues are open for debate, but they allow exactly the same numbers of points per possession as WVU (1.50 - 196th in the nation) and are near the bottom in points and possessions allowed per game. Some of this is due to their own pace, whihc increases the number of possessions and points scored overall, but WVU has to take some hope that it can do some damage of its own when it has the ball.


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Oklahoma has performed much as the other upper echelon teams in the league down the stretch. Since falling to the Mountaineers in overtime one month ago, OU is 4-2, completing a season sweep of Bedlam while knocking off Texas and K-State. Losses to Kansas (understandable) and Texas Tech have hurt a bit, but OU is still set for a top five seed in the NCAA tournament if it can finish the season with wins against the Mountaineers and TCU.

The Sooners continue to ride a three-guard attack, with Buddy Hield (So., G, 6-4) having ramped up his play against league opponents. He's averaging 16.7 points per game overall, and is also a tough defender, tallying 1.4 steals per game. It won't be a surprise to see him match up defensively against Juwan Staten on occasion, even though freshman Jordan Woodard (6-0) is more similar in size and quickness.

Ryan Spangler has done a lot of work on the inside and in the midrange for OU. The 6-8 transfer is averaging 10.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per outing, and finds niches and cracks in the defense to get to the glass. He's nicely balanced by Cameron Clark, who's averaging 15 ppg and steps out to hit the three when teams don't challenge him.

OU continues to go primarily with an eight-man rotation, woth a forward and two guards coming off the bench to complete all but a handful of minutes. They've been at home since Feb. 25, while the Mountaineers will be making their second jaunt to the midwest over the same stretch.

The first game between the two teams was a tale of two halves, as WVU ran out to an 11-point lead at the break, only to give up 49 points in the second. Eron Harris did his best gunslinger act in shooting down OU's hopes of getting a win on the road, but the Mountaineers can't count on him hitting bullseyes like Vasily Zaytsev to bail them out of impossible situations.

In order to get a road win to keep its barely flickering NCAA hopes alive, West Virginia has to shoot the ball well. Better defense would be nice, but at this point in the season it's hard to picture the Mountaineers dredging up even an average defensive performance.

There are a couple of things to watch on that end of the court, though. The Mountaineers went to a 3-2 defense for much of the TCU game, with Nathan Adrian manning the middle up top between the guards. Adrian's length allows the guards to get out more to the wings to cover perimeter shooters while he cuts down on passing lanes to the interior. OU has six players in its rotation who can hit threes, however, so expecting a zone, even a perimeter-oriented one, to cover all of them might be a bit of a stretch.

Still, with Spangler the only dominant inside scorer, WVU might resort to a zone with only two players on the blocks in order to get more defenders out to the 3-point line. (OU has been outscored in the lane by 119 points this year, but its top six scorers on the season are shooting a combined 43.7% at home from distance. A pack line defense would seem to be indicated here, but the Mountaineers have so much trouble with defensive fundamentals, such a look isn't in the cards for them.

That leaves scoring, which West Virginia is able to do. What it can't afford to do, though, is suffer a four- or five minute drought where it only puts up a couple of points. With the defense unable to manufacture such stretches on the other end, the only way WVU can stay in the game is to shoot the ball consistently and not waste any possessions. Those are things the Mountaineers are capable of, but they can't be dragged down by extended scoreless streaks.

The other item to track is the status of Terry Henderson, who is making the trip to Oklahoma. There is no word on his availability, or whether he will dress or play. While WVU could use some scoring from the sophomore, it's hard to think that he will be able to play major minutes.

Hopefully they aren't focusing on this (and it's doubtful if they are), but Juwan Staten and Eron Harris are in the tightest of races for the team scoring lead. Staten, with 523 points, holds an edge of just one point over Harris.

That works out to an average of 18.034 points per game for Staten, and an even 18.000 for Harris.

* * *

If asked, most Big 12 observers might guess that Iowa State leads the league in 3-pointers per conference game. However, it's actually OU, with 8.8 treys per Big 12 contest, that is atop the standings. That has contributed greatly to Oklahoma's 82.3 ppg average this year.

* * *

West Virginia's defense has gotten its share of criticism this year, but Oklahoma's might be worse. The reasons for the Sooners' defensive issues are open for debate, but they allow exactly the same numbers of points per possession as WVU (1.50 - 196th in the nation) and are near the bottom in points and possessions allowed per game. Some of this is due to their own pace, whihc increases the number of possessions and points scored overall, but WVU has to take some hope that it can do some damage of its own when it has the ball.

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