Pick with Analysis
The Big 12 took another turn over the weekend with Kansas winning at Oklahoma. That means West Virginia is left alone at the top of the standings to deal with the Jayhawks, in hopes of stopping them from a 12th-straight league title. To do so, it’ll take winning some road Games for the Mountaineers, and that starts in Texas.
The last time these teams played, the Longhorns got the better of WVU, even in Morgantown. It was a defensive battle as Texas aimed to slow the Game down and that’s exactly what they did in a 56-49 win. The Longhorns attempted just 41 shots (20 less than WVU) and still won the Game as the Mountaineers piled up 24 offensive rebounds and had 16 more total rebounds in the loss. The difference was that Texas only turned the ball over eight times, which is a significant number considering West Virginia just forced TCU into 26 turnovers last Game.
Shaka Smart took a calm and relaxed approach in the first Game and there’s no reason he’ll sway from that in the second meeting. The Longhorns may have lost two straight, but losing two road Games against ranked competition isn’t all that bad, as they had a decent shot to take down Oklahoma a week ago. The Longhorns still haven’t lost at home in Conference play, but they still have Baylor, Oklahoma and Kansas after this Game.
As for the Mountaineers, they have three Conference losses. One of them came at home to Texas and the other two were on the road against KU and OU. Their brand of basketball can travel, but maybe not to the same effect if the home crowd isn’t behind their pressure defense. To win this Game, they’ll obviously have to shoot better than the first time around.
Not only did West Virginia shoot 31% from the field and 3-of-21 from deep, but they also shot a putrid 8-for-23 from the free throw line. Their Four guards — Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles Jr., Jaysean Paige and Tarik Phillip — were a combined 6-of-34 from the field and only had three steals. However, winning this Game won’t just take hitting a few more shots.
It’s hard to see Texas getting outrebounded by that much again, especially at home. The Longhorns surprisingly aren’t a great rebounding team, but they’ll undoubtedly look at film from the first Game and make sure they don’t get destroyed on the boards again. That said, can Devin Williams be stopped? Williams has been a dominant force for the Mountaineers in the last five, averaging 14 points and 12 rebounds per Game. To win this Game, Texas will need to limit what Williams does.
Another player Texas has to keep in check is Jaysean Paige. His arguably worst Game of the season came in that first meeting as Paige is averaging 16 points since scoring Four against the Longhorns in the first Game.
A lot of the signs point to West Virginia having a better performance and coming out on top, but the Longhorns also didn’t play that great in the first Game, either. Isaiah Taylor was 0-for-8 from the floor, which doesn’t happen often for him (or ever). The slow-it-down approach worked in the first Game, but West Virginia will be ready for it. The Longhorns will need more offensive output, whether it’s from Taylor or another 17-point outing from Javan Felix.
West Virginia is playing for the league title and will likely put in a better Game in this meeting. Will home cOurt advantage be enough for Texas, or can the Longhorns put in another great defensive performance to sweep the Mountaineers?
Score Prediction – Texas 73 West Virginia 72