NCAA Monday Night Basketball: West Virginia/Texas Tech Preview

by Big Al Staff

A college basketball doubleheader on ESPN concludes at 9 PM ET in a battle between two Big 12 teams nationally ranked in the top fifteen.

Texas Tech ranks 12th in the nation in the Associated Press poll with an 11-4 record. The Red Raiders last played on January 16th when they lost at home to Baylor as a 4.5-point underdog. Head coach Chris Beard’s team has not played since facing the number two ranked team in the nation due to the COVID issues with TCU and Iowa State that led to the postponement of those two games last week. Beard said he used the week off to get his players rest while keeping them sharp with some practice time and video sessions.

This group is likely Beard’s most talented team in his five years as head coach of this program. While he lost three starters from the team that finished 18-13 last season, he was aggressive in attracting some high-level transfers while bringing in a good freshman class to join junior Kyler Edwards and sophomore Terrence Shannon. Some of the depth Beard had established diminished when five-star freshman Nimari Burnett decided to leave the team to transfer to another school. He was averaging 17.7 minutes-per-game but only scoring 5.3 points-per-game. Georgetown transfer Mac McClung has adapted to Beard’s system to lead the team with a 16.3 points-per-game scoring average. Shannon is second on the team by scoring 12.8 points-per-game.

Once again, Texas Tech is an outstanding defensive team under Beard. They are fifth in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to kenpom. The Red Raiders are also seventh in the country by forcing turnovers in 26.7% of their opponent’s possessions. This team also thrives in getting second-chance shots. Texas Tech rebounds 35.1% of their missed shots, 23rd in the country. They also get to the free-throw line as they rank fifth in free throw rate. The weakness of this team is shooting the basketball. The Red Raiders make only 32.6% of their 3-pointers and 49.2% of their shots inside the arc, ranking 213th and 201st, respectively. kenpom ranks their adjusted offensive efficiency at 37th. In their loss to Baylor, they shot just 35.5% from the field while going 6 of 24 from 3-point land.

Texas Tech’s three other losses were to Houston, Kansas, and Oklahoma State. Their highest-profile wins are against Texas and Oklahoma. Beard’s team could use another resume-building victory after compiling several wins against lesser competition.

West Virginia went on hiatus for two weeks after a COVID outbreak within their program. They returned to the court on Saturday in a 69-47 win at Kansas State as an 11-point favorite in their first game since January 9th.

The Mountaineers are 2-2 since losing two players in their frontline rotation at the beginning of the month. Isaiah Cottrell suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in their 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. The more significant loss was Oscar Tshiebwe, who stepped away from the program for personal reasons. 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 14th in the current Associated Press pill with an 8-3 record. They have resume-building wins against Western Kentucky, Richmond, and Oklahoma. The Mountaineers' three losses were against Gonzaga, Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma, with those first three teams ranked in top-15 in the new AP poll and the Sooners ranking 25th.

Huggins still has plenty of talent on his roster. Sophomore Miles McBride leads the team with a 15.3 points-per-game scoring average, and junior forward Derek Culver is adding 13.4 PPG with 10.3 rebounds-per-game. Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil are also both averaging at least 9.6 PPG.

West Virginia hosts this game in Morgantown, where they are 4-1 this season. Texas Texas Tech is undefeated in their three road games in the rugged Big 12.

While the Mountaineers opened as a small favorite, the Red Raiders will likely be the favorite by the 9 PM ET tipoff on ESPN. BookMaker lists Texas Tech as a 1.5-point road favorite with the total set at 134.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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