The first ESPN Big Monday of 2021 features two Big 12 teams that appear poised to be players in the NCAA Tournament. West Virginia visits Oklahoma State in Stillwater on ESPN2 for a 9 PM ET tipoff.
The Cowboys raised their record to a 7-2 mark on Saturday with their 82-77 upset victory in overtime at Texas Tech as an 8-point underdog. Oklahoma State raced out to a 37-28 halftime lead before the Red Raiders rallied in the final 20 minutes to force the additional five minutes of play.
It had to be encouraging for head coach Mike Boynton that his team pulled the upset despite Cade Cunningham being just the fourth-leading scorer with 13 points. The 6'8" freshman point guard might be the number one pick in the NBA draft in June. He is scoring 18.4 points-per-game while adding 5.8 rebounds-per-game and 3.8 assists-per-game. Avery Anderson III led the way with 17 points on 6 of 7 shooting while leading the team by playing 40 minutes. Boynton recently inserted him into the starting lineup to give his team a three-guard look with the hopes of providing the team better scoring in the half-court. Last year’s leading scorer, Isaac Likekele, also had 17 points while adding seven rebounds. The junior is the second-leading scorer on the team with a 10.9 points-per-game average while adding 8.1 rebounds-per-game and 3.7 assists-per-game.
Oklahoma State has also registered high-profile victories against Wichita State and an upset against Marquette. The Cowboys’ two losses are to TCU and at Texas.
West Virginia lost their third game of the season on Saturday in a 75-71 loss at Oklahoma. That was the first time that the team played without two frontline players in head coach Bob Huggins' rotation. Isaiah Cottrell suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in their previous game against Northeastern. The four-star freshman was averaging only 5.6 minutes-per-game, but he gave the Mountaineers’ depth at forward with potential upside as the team’s highest-rated freshman. Even more significant loss was Oscar Tshiebwe, who stepped away from the program for personal reasons on Friday. The sophomore led the team with a 10.2 points-per-game scoring average last season but had taken a step back this year by scoring 8.1 points-per-game while adding 3.8 rebounds-per-game.
West Virginia ranks ninth in the current Associated Press poll with an 8-3 record. They have resume-building wins against Western Kentucky and Richmond. The Mountaineers' other two losses were against Gonzaga and Kansas, which are teams ranked first and third in the AP poll.
Huggins still has plenty of talent on his roster. Sophomore Miles McBride leads the team with a 14.8 points-per-game scoring average, and junior forward Derek Culver is adding 13.0 PPG with 9.5 rebounds-per-game. Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil are also both averaging over 10 PPG.
These two teams last met last season when the Mountaineers defeated the Cowboys by a 65-47 score as a home favorite laying 10.5 points. BetAnySports
lists West Virginia as a 1-point road favorite.