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Men’s Basketball Preview: West Virginia Take 2

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Can the Cowboys flip the script on the Mountaineers?

NCAA Basketball: West Virginia at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Alright Cowboy fans it’s time to start the second round of Big 12 play in Morgantown. As you all well know, West Virginia ran the Cowboys out of a sold out Gallagher-Iba Arena in December when the two teams matched up the first time.

Now, Brad Underwood and the new-look Cowboys look to avenge their humiliating defeat and return the favor when the two teams match up for potentially the final time this season (barring a Big 12 Tournament or March Madness pairing).

Here are the quick hits for tonight’s game.


Cowboys (14-8, 3-6 Big 12) vs. #7 Mountaineers (18-4, 6-3 Big 12)

Time: 4:00 p.m. CST

Location: WVU Coliseum, Morgantown, WV

TV: ESPNU

Radio: Cowboy Radio Network / Tunein

Stream: WatchESPN.com (requires provider login)

Live Stats: okstate.statbroadcast.com


The Opponent

Since defeating the Cowboys in December, the Mountaineers have been on a bit of an up-and-down ride. They lost to Texas Tech right after they beat OSU, then rattled off three straight wins against TCU, then-No. 1 Baylor, and Texas. They then inexplicably dropped two straight against OU and Kansas State, before earning victories over then-No. 2 Kansas, Texas A&M, and Iowa State.

Of their three losses, only one has been at home, and that was the overtime stunner at the hands of OU. “Press Virginia” has been dominant on their home floor, and their closest game at home other than OU was the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, where they only beat TAMU by four points.


Player to Watch

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

I know it was Dexter Miles Jr. that lit up the Pokes last game, but Jevon Carter has been the rock for the Mountaineers most of the season. Carter is in the middle of the best season of his career, averaging 11.8 point, 4.6 assists, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.0 steals per game. He is also shooting 44.5% from the field - all career bests for the junior guard.


Three Big Things

1. Take the crowd out of it.

I CANNOT stress this enough. According to ESPN BPI daily predictions, the Cowboys only have a 7.9% chance to win in Morgantown.

If the Cowboys can start out as hot as they did against Arkansas, WVU Coliseum will be more like WVU Mausoleum. That bodes well for the Cowboys, as they will be able to communicate better and help each other as they try to break down WVU’s famous press.

2. Beat the press.

We know they are going to press us all game long and it’s going to be relentless. The nice thing about a team pressing the entire game is it should eventually become easier to break the press and not have it affect your game as much. WVU wants to play fast, hard-nosed, pedal-to-the-metal basketball. What a coincidence. That’s how Brad Underwood likes to play too. If they can break the press and push the ball down the floor, the Cowboys could be in for a potential upset and a huge resumé booster come tournament time. Brad Underwood has figured out this WVU press before (last year in the NCAA Tournament, Underwood’s SFA team upset the Mountaineers in the first round), and I think he can do it again.

3. Stay out of foul trouble.

This is paramount to the Cowboys’ success. If the Cowboys get in trouble and are forced to use their bench for a huge amount of time, they could be in real trouble. Coach Underwood’s strategy should be to constantly sub players in and out (almost like hockey shift style) to ensure he always has fresh legs in the game to run with the Mountaineers. If Evans gets two quick fouls, for example, and Averette is forced to play more than he normally would in the first half, he will likely be tired out and not on the same level as he would be if Evans wasn’t in foul trouble. Same for Solomon and Dillard or Carroll and Waters. Playing clean basketball will help the Pokes in the final 10 minutes.