College Hoops Pick
The Big 12 is truly up for grabs this season. While that’s probably been said before during Kansas’ 11-year reign in the conference, this season might finally be the one that the Jayhawks let slip away. A reason for that is the improvement of West Virginia and Oklahoma, who face off this weekend in Norman.
The Sooners lost to KU just over a week ago, but it can’t be discredited since it was played in LAwrence where the Jayhawks usually run away from opponents. Instead, Oklahoma took that Game to three overtimes and showed their worth. That’s OU’s only loss this year with wins against Villanova and Iowa State highlighting the current slate. Things won’t get easier for them, though, as after this one, OU travels to Iowa State and Baylor in back-to-back Games.
West Virginia only has one loss on the year, but wasn’t getting much respect heading into its Game against Kansas on Tuesday. In the Mountaineers’ only Game against a ranked team prior, they lost by 16 points to Virginia. But now, WVU is the last remaining team without a loss in the Big 12, and after this Game, have some favorable matchups against lower end teams in the conference.
But as is the case in Conference Games, the Mountaineers will have trouble on the road and should be lined up for their first Conference loss of the season. Their previous two road wins came against Kansas State and TCU. Two decent teams, but nowhere near the level of Oklahoma.
No matter what happens, there’s no doubt this Game will be fun. Both of these teams love pace and this will undoubtedly be a high-scoring, back-and-forth Game.
Oklahoma’s mission will be to thwart WVU’s defensive pressure. That was something Kansas couldn’t do over the week and it led to just 63 points for the Jayhawks. The Mountaineers average 11.4 steals per Game, which is best in the nation. That means Player of the Year candidate Buddy Hield, along with Jordan Woodard and Isaiah Cousins have to be careful with the ball. The Sooners backcOurt is full of experience and that will come in handy, especially as these guys have seen the WVU press plenty in their careers.
And then having to stop Hield (26.6 ppg) is a major issue for West Virginia. Hield has improved his shot vastly in his senior season, shooting a ridiculous 51.8% from long range, a major step up from a year ago. That has led to almost 10 points more per Game and national recognition. But that’s not where it stops for the Sooners, Woodard and Cousins are great shooters as well, but also big man Ryan Spangler can step back and hit the three.
The Mountaineers love to press and a deep roster allows them to do that. While Oklahoma is veteran-laden with a few big scorers, West Virginia is more spread out with six different guys scoring at least 7.7 points per Game (OU only has Four). Bob Huggins has a deep bench and uses that to his advantage and no one on the team even averages 28 minutes. Devin Williams is a handful down low and should have the athleticism to keep up with Spangler if that’s the matchup.
However, keeping up on the scoreboard won’t be as easy for the Mountaineers. Jaysean Page and Jevon Carter are good players, but if Hield starts hitting his shots, someone will have to come out on fire for WVU.
In these Games last year, the home team won by 21 and 19 points and it wouldn’t be surprising if that same thing happened this year. West Virginia is good, but winning on the road takes an entirely different effort in the Big 12.
Oklahoma 85 WVA 79