NCAA Saturday Afternoon Basketball: West Virginia/Texas Preview

by Big Al Staff

The Saturday afternoon college basketball game on ABC features a rematch of two nationally-ranked Big 12 teams currently tied in the conference standings.

West Virginia had their three-game winning streak snapped last Saturday in a 91-90 upset loss in double-overtime to Oklahoma as a 4-point favorite. The Mountaineers missed 10 of their 21 shots from the charity stripe, and they only made 7 of 24 from 3-point land in the setback.

Derek Culver led the team with a career-high 29 points with 14 rebounds for his tenth double-double this year. The junior forward is scoring 15.1 points-per-game and averaging 10.4 rebounds-per-game. Sean McNeil added 21 points and is fourth on the team with an 11.7 points-per-game scoring average. Miles McBride leads the team with a 16.2 points-per-game scoring average after the sophomore poured in 19 points.

West Virginia is ranked 13th in the nation by the Associated Press with a 14-6 record. Their impending showdown with Baylor last Monday got postponed due to COVID. The team went on hiatus for two weeks after a COVID outbreak within their program in mid-January. The Mountaineers are 6-4 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 their 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 is tied for fourth place in the Big 12 standings with a 7-4 record. They have resume-building wins against Kansas, Texas Tech (twice), and Oklahoma State. The Mountaineers' six losses are against Gonzaga, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma (twice), and Florida.

“Press Virginia” has not been effective this season for Huggins as his team ranks only fourth in the Big 12 with a 20.0% defensive turnover rate. West Virginia is 60th in the nation and seventh in the Big 12 in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. The Mountaineers are 10th in adjusted offensive efficiency because of their ability to generate second-chance scoring opportunities. West Virginia ranks 10th with a 36.2% offensive rebounding rate.

Texas had lost four of five games but have since responded with two straight victories against Kansas State and TCU. The Longhorns’ game with Oklahoma on Thursday got postponed because of COVID. Shaka Smart’s team has had several games lost this season due to the pandemic, with both the players and the coaching staff missing time.

The Longhorns rank 12th in the AP poll with a 13-5 record. They have several impressive victories against Indiana and North Carolina en route to winning the Maui Invitational while adding wins against Oklahoma State, Kansas, and West Virginia. Their five losses are to Villanova, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Baylor, and Oklahoma State.

Smart’s job was in jeopardy last season. The team hit a low point in an 81-52 loss at Iowa State. Yet Smart rallied his team to win five of their last six games to finish with a 19-12 record in a season interrupted to COVID. Texas was on the bubble to make the NCAA Tournament. Smart's team has won 16 of their last 20 games since that drubbing to the Cyclones.

The Longhorns returned twelve players, including all five starters from last year. Smart added a likely one-and-done freshman in Greg Brown, who is contributing 11.5 points-per-game and 7.5 rebounds-per-game. Texas has five players scoring at least 8.4 points-per-game, led by Andrew Jones with a 15.9 points-per-game average.

Texas ranks 20th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. On defense, the Longhorns are 25th in adjusted defensive efficiency fueled by their half-court defense as they hold their opponents to a 45.5% effective field goal percentage, 20th nationally.

This game is a rematch of Texas’ 72-70 victory in Morgantown on January 9th as a 1.5-point underdog. The Longhorns are a 3-point favorite at BetAnySports, with the total set at 147.5. The ABC broadcast starts at 3 PM ET.

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

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