WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS (17-14)
vs. TEXAS LONGHORNS (22-9)
Big 12 Tournament - Quarterfinals
Sprint Center - Kansas City, MO
Tip-off: Thursday, 9:30 p.m. ET
Line: Texas -3, Total: 150.5
West Virginia hopes to carry momentum from its biggest win of the season when it takes on slumping Texas in the Big 12 Tournament Quarterfinals on Thursday night.
Thursday marks the third meeting between these schools, with the Longhorns dominating the first two installments with double-digit victories in both. When they first met on Jan. 13, the Mountaineers had not trailed by more than eight points in its prior five contests before being soundly defeated 80-69 by a Texas squad that led by double-digits for the entire second half. The Longhorns posted what was then a season-high 52.7% FG and held WVU to 37.7% FG, including 4-of-25 threes. They also outrebounded the Mountaineers by a 49-30 margin. The second meeting on Feb. 15 in Austin was even more lopsided, with Texas rolling to an 88-71 victory. The 'Horns established a new season-high shooting percentage of 57.9% FG and again, outrebounded the Mountaineers soundly by a 41-26 margin. During that contest, Texas led by as many as 21 points, the Mountaineers' largest deficit in Big 12 play this season. But the Longhorns' season has gone south since that blowout win, as they are just 2-4 SU (1-5 ATS) in the past six games overall, shooting less than 40% FG (35%, 39%, 34%, and 33%) in four of those contests. They have not won outside of Austin since edging lowly TCU on Feb. 4, going 0-5 (SU and ATS) in the past five road games falling to 5-8 ATS in non-road games this season (13-15 ATS overall). West Virginia is 14-12-2 ATS overall and 7-7-1 ATS in non-home games, but has dropped four in a row away from Morgantown, all by double-figures. But the team's confidence is high after ending the regular season with a stunning 92-86 victory over No. 8 Kansas, which was favored by five points. WVU shot 53% FG in that upset and outrebounded its opponent 37-31.
Which school will advance to the conference semifinals? For the latest college basketball picks, check out The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts selections every week throughout the entire 2013-14 season. The StatFox Experts have been rolling in college basketball Best Bets this season with a stellar 60% ATS (264-180-16) mark, including a hefty 61% ATS (232-146-10) record since Nov. 23. StatFox Brian is on an amazing Best Bets run of 20-2-2 (91% ATS) since Feb. 6, 29-5-3 (85% ATS) since Jan. 17, and 74% ATS (54-19-3) since Nov. 26 to give him a robust 70% ATS (61-26-4) record in Best Bets for the season. StatFox Dave is 64% ATS (38-21-1) since in Best Bets Dec. 18 and 60% ATS (55-36-2) this season, while StatFox Scott is 65% ATS (11-6-2) since Feb. 16 and 57% ATS (51-38-4) for the season. StatFox Gary is 61% ATS (47-30) on Best Bets since Nov. 22 and 57% ATS (51-38-2) for the season.
West Virginia thrives on the offensive end of the court with 78.5 PPG (31st in nation), but makes just 44.3% FG. This team is not very sound defensively though, surrendering 73.5 PPG (267th in nation) on 44.6% FG. The heart and soul of this team is junior PG Juwan Staten (18.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 5.9 APG) who lit up Kansas for 24 points (14-of-20 FT), nine assists and five rebounds. He also dropped 23 points (9-of-14 FG) in the home loss to Texas, and although he cooled off in the defeat in Austin (6-of-16 FG), Staten still wound up with 14 points, seven assists and six rebounds. His backcourt mate, SG Eron Harris (17.9 PPG, 43% threes, 3.6 RPG) also had a monster game against the Jayhawks with 28 points on 8-of-14 FG (5-of-7 threes), but he has made only 2-of-13 threes in the season series with Texas. Freshman PF Devin Williams (8.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG) provides the muscle down low with his 6-foot-9, 255-frame, and also had a huge game on Saturday with 22 points (8-of-10 FG) and 13 boards, marking his third straight double-double. But he has been a non-factor against the monstrous Texas frontcourt this season, scoring a mere four points on 2-of-12 shooting combined in the two meetings.
Clearly, physical dominance makes for a challenging matchup. as Texas puts on the floor 6-foot-8 Jonathan Holmes and 6-foot-9 Cameron Ridley followed off the bench by 6-foot-10 Prince Ibeh and 6-foot-8 Connor Lammert. These giants are a big reason why the team ranks fourth in the nation in rebounding (41.8 RPG), 13th in blocks (6.0 BPG) and allows just 40.1% FG this season (29th in Div. I). The Longhorns frontcourt helps make up for an inconsistent offense that scores 74.5 PPG (78th in nation) but only 43.1% FG (236th in Div. I). Texas will continue to have the physical edge in rebounding. This was clearly evident in the first two meetings when Texas outscored WVU 80-44 in the paint. Ridley (11.5 PPG, 8.1 RPG) averaged 14.5 PPG and 9.0 RPG against the Mountaineers this season while converting 12-of-16 FG. Much of this can be attributed to solid performances by the Texas guards. Freshman PG Isaiah Taylor (12.6 PPG, 3.9 APG, 3.4 RPG) and senior SG Javan Felix (12.0 PPG, 2.8 APG) have successfully penetrated the WVU perimeter for easy looks, combining for 60 points in the season series.