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At the beginning of the year, no one expected this matchup to be of any importance, especially during the so-called rivalry week. Instead, West Virginia and Texas have surprised everyone, being two of the top teams in the Big 12. Last year, they were both an afterthought, finishing with losing records.
The Longhorns are ranked No. 19 in the country and are only one game behind Kansas for first place in the conference. They have won eight of their last nine games which is quite impressive in this conference. In their last two home games, they dominated Oklahoma State and Kansas. More wins include Iowa State, Kansas State and on the road against this West Virginia squad.
As for the Mountaineers, they are even more of a surprise, especially after Monday's beat down over the Cyclones in which they scored 102 points. Other wins include Oklahoma, Kansas State and at Baylor. Outside of that Baylor win, West Virginia hasn't really done much in road games and if they want to get into the Big Dance, that will have to change as their final stretch of games won't be easy.
The last time these teams played, the Mountaineers couldn't buy a bucket, shooting 38 percent from the field and a pitiful 4-for-25 from the three-point line. Keep in mind they went 13-of-22 from three in Monday's game vs. ISU.
The bad news for WVU in that last game is that it wasn't Texas' leading scorer Jonathan Holmes that led the way. It was a solid team effort for the Longhorns shooting 53 percent with Javan Felix leading the way with 19 points. Holmes is currently dealing with a knee issue that left him out of Tuesday's game vs. OK State, so that will be something to look at, even though it doesn't seem to have affected the team.
It's going to be another battle of the backcourts in this game and it will come down to how well the Mountaineers shoot. Surely, they can't be as bad as the last matchup. Eron Harris scores 17.4 points per game for WVU and he only put in six points in the previous matchup. He's joined by Juwan Staten, who is a do-it-all guard with 18.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 6 APG. Staten can beat pretty much anyone off the dribble which then opens up looks for guys like Harris, Terry Henderson and Remi Dibo, all of whom can shoot the three-ball.
For the Longhorns, Felix is actually the team's third leading scorer, but they have a lot of balance. Also in the backcourt, Isaiah Taylor is putting in a great freshman season and is scoring close to 19 points per game over the last five contests. Even if Holmes doesn't play, Cameron Ridley can still provide the muscle down low along with Connor Lammert, who provides a little more range than Holmes.
Due to how much West Virginia has struggled on the road this year, Texas definitely has the advantage. But as long as the Mountaineers don't have one of their worst shooting games of the year again, this will be a closer contest than the last matchup.
Predicted Score - Texas 83 West Virginia 77
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