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Preview: Oklahoma State vs. No. 7 West Virginia

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The Mountaineers invade GIA as Big 12 basketball commences.

NCAA Basketball: West Virginia at Oklahoma State
Dec 30, 2016; Stillwater, OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Lindy Waters III (21) drives during the second half against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Gallagher-Iba Arena. WVU won 92-75. 
Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

For the second straight season, Oklahoma State will begin conference play with a home matchup against a ranked West Virginia team. The Cowboys will look to avoid a repeat of last year’s 92-75 home-loss to West Virginia when the seventh-ranked Mountaineers invade Gallagher-Iba Arena Friday night to kick off Big 12 play.


Where - Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater, Oklahoma

When- 6 p.m. CST

Channel - ESPNU

Stream - WatchESPN

Odds - West Virginia -3


Since losing to Texas A&M by 23 points in its season opener, West Virginia has rattled off 11 straight wins. During that span, the Mountaineers delivered ninth-ranked Virginia its only loss of the season, 68-61, and defeated rival Pittsburgh by nine. Based on common opponents, Oklahoma State and West Virginia should stack up evenly -- the Cowboys lost to Texas A&M by 17 and beat Pitt by six points earlier this season.

West Virginia can beat a team in a lot of different ways. The Mountaineers are 30th in the nation in scoring with nearly 85 points a game. 6’2 senior guard Jevon Carter leads the team with over 18 points a game. Carter, a well-rounded player, is averaging 6.3 assists per game, 5.5 rebounds a game, and a nation’s-best 3.7 steals per game. He is also the second-best 3-pointer shooter on the team at 41 percent.

Six-foot-three senior guard Daxter Miles Jr. holds his own with 14.8 points per game. The Cowboys will also need to be aware of 6-8 forward Lamont West, who adds over 12 points and brings down 5.6 boards a game. James Bolden is the smallest of West Virginia’s three guards, but he still averages 11 points a game and is the team’s best 3-pointer shooter. The Mountaineers’ fifth starter, 6-8 Sagaba Konate, leads the team in rebounding and blocks. Whether it’s Mitchell Solomon or Yankuba Sima, the Cowboys will have a size advantage in the post.

Defensively, Press Virginia ranks sixth in the nation with 10.5 steals per game. The Mountaineers also rank 26th in the nation by holding opponents to 63.4 points per game. Texas A&M has been the only team to hold Oklahoma State under 64 points so far this season.

This is a big game for the Cowboys, who travel to Norman on January 3 for their next Big 12 game. Oklahoma State opens conference play with two ranked opponents before playing Iowa State, Kansas State, and Texas -- that’s about as easy a stretch as you can hope for in the Big 12. The Cowboys need to go 4-1 or 3-2 during that stretch because their next seven Big 12 opponents are currently ranked.

Prediction

Playing at home could give Oklahoma State the edge, but that’s only assuming the crowd shows up. Jevon Carter is one of the best players the Cowboys will see all year, and the Mountaineers are one of the best teams the Cowboys will see all year. I think Oklahoma State starts well and keeps it close, but West Virginia escapes with the win. 74-66 WVU