Basketball

Game Preview & Open Thread: West Virginia vs. Texas Tech

The Red Raiders host the Mountaineers in a top 10 matchup.

Game Info

Date: Saturday, January 13th
Time: 1:00 pm
Good Guys: Texas Tech Red Raiders (14-2, 3-1)
Bad Guys: West Virginia Mountaineers (15-1, 4-0)
Location: United Supermarkets Arena | Lubbock, Texas
TV/Stream: ESPN
Radio/Stream: 97.3 FM/104.3 FM/950 AM

Lineups

TEXAS TECH
THE STARTERS Pts / Reb
POINT GUARD Keenan Evans (6-3/190) 17.3 / 3.4*
SHOOTING GUARD Niem Stevenson (6-6/205) 7.8 / 3.1
SMALL FORWARD Justin Gray (6-6/210) 5.6 / 3.6
POWER FORWARD Zach Smith (6-8/220) 6.5 / 3.9
CENTER Norense Odiase (6-9/245) 4.7 / 5.5
THE BENCH Pts / Reb
SIXTH MAN Zhaire Smith (6-5/195) 10.4 / 4.4
SEVENTH MAN Jarrett Culver (6-5/190) 10.3 / 3.7
EIGHTH MAN Davide Moretti (6-3/165) 5.4 / 1.8*
NINTH MAN Tommy Hamilton IV (6-11/250) 6.3 / 3.9
TENTH MAN Brandone Francis (6-5/205) 4.8 / 2.4
ELEVENTH MAN Josh Webster (6-4/175) 0.7 / 0.7*
TWELFTH MAN Malik Ondigo (6-10/210) 0.8 / 0.7
WEST VIRGINIA
THE STARTERS Pts / Reb
POINT GUARD Jevon Carter (6-2/205) 16.1 / 6.8
SHOOTING GUARD Daxter Miles, Jr. (6-3/200) 13.8 / 36.3*
SMALL FORWARD Wesley Harris (6-8/200) 6.1 / 4.9
POWER FORWARD Lamont West (6-8/230) 12.9 / 5.5
CENTER Sagaba Konate (6-8/260) 9.0 / 7.5
THE BENCH Pts / Reb
SIXTH MAN James Bolden (6-0/170) 10.4 / 2.5
SEVENTH MAN Chase Harler (6-3/210) 9.9 / 1.1
EIGHTH MAN Maciej Bender (6-10/250) 1.8 / 2.6
NINTH MAN Teddy Allen (6-5/225) 9.1 / 3.3
TENTH MAN Esa Ahmad (6-8/230) 11.3 / 4.3**

* Assists.
** Stats from 2016-17 season.

Starting 5

1. KenPom. KenPom has West Virginia as the 12th best team, 36th in AdjO and 9th in AdjD. Texas Tech, despite losing to Oklahoma earlier in the week, is 6th overall, 38th in AdjO and 3rd in AdjD.

2. Scouting. There are a couple of factors here, namely, Texas Tech is a bit banged up. Head coach Chris Beard said that Zach Smith and Justin Gray are both day-to-day. Smith was in a walking boot against Oklahoma and didn’t play a minute, while Gray had a knee that acted up in the second half against the Sooners. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers are getting someone that they haven’t had all year in Esa Ahmad, the starting small forward from last year averaging double-figures. That gives West Virginia just one more 6’8″ body that they didn’t have before and that’s where the biggest problem with how Texas Tech matches up with WVU. This also gives Texas Tech potentially two less big bodies to guard those big men and both Smith and Gray are versatile defenders who can guard multiple positions. West Virginia has always been a big team and this year is no different.

Aside from the size aspect, Texas Tech will obviously need to be on point with their ball-handling and this will be really interesting to see how the young players, especially Davide Moretti reacts to that pressure. Moretti had his worst game against Oklahoma and he’ll need to be very good if he wants to continue to earn those minutes. I think he’ll be fine, it usually takes a game for Moretti to correct whatever it is that he was doing wrong and I think with OU, he really mid-judged OU’s athelticism ot an extent.

3. Four Factors. Texas Tech is a better shooting team than WVU 54%, eFG for TTU and 51% eFG for WVU, and hopefully that will come into play when Texas Tech plays on their home court. Texas Tech shot 37% (or something terrible) against Oklahoma and Texas Tech will just have to be better than that against the Mountaineers. It should also not be a surprise that WBU is a very good offensive rebounding team, a lot like Texas Tech, both are above 34% in offensive rebounding percentage, WVU at 36% and Texas Tech at 35%. Both teams shoot within 1% of the same free throw rate and Texas Tech has a higher turnover percentage, 15% to 13%.

4. Reading Material.

  • A-J Media’s Carlos Silva, Jr. writes about Texas Tech preparing for the West Virginia pressure:

    Zhaire Smith earned his first start as he replaced senior forward Zach Smith in the starting lineup. He filled up the stat sheet, but ended his streak of consecutive games with double figures at 10.

    But, more important to Beard, was the fact Zhaire Smith did not point any fingers following the No. 8 Red Raiders first loss in Big 12 play.

    “I’ve never seen a guy more emotionally invested in a loss early in his career than him,” Beard said. “Hopefully that’s a sign of good things to come.”

  • Gazette Mail’s Mitch Vingle previews the game:

    “They’re good,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins of the Red Raiders. “They’re really good. They’re extremely well-coached. They’re experienced. They have a great mix of the old and the new. Keenan Evans is, I think, terrific at the point. He makes huge plays for them. Smith is probably the most athletic guy. I don’t know anybody that has two better freshmen. They made big, big shots at Kansas, and that’s not easy to do.”

  • MetroNews’ Allan Taylor writes about the return of Ahmad:

    Having watched the first half of West Virginia’s season from the margins, Esa Ahmad now resurfaces, carrying the key to the second half.

    The team’s most attractive NBA prospect, yet to fully realize his potential in the college ranks, sat for 16 games, 15 of which his teammates won as they ascended to No. 2 in the AP poll.

    How much better can the Mountaineers become with the return of their biggest matchup problem, who also happens to be their most explosive finisher?

  • BlueGoldNews’ Kevin Kinder previews the two teams:

    WVU has been adequate rebounding the ball this year, but hasn’t dominated the glass, especially on the defensive end, as it has in some previous seasons. The Mountaineers have yielded 162 offensive rebounds to date, and hold just a five-board advantage when comparing defensive retrievals. Another consistent rebounder is needed, and that’s a place where Ahmad, with his reach and jumping ability, can help. Head coach Bob Huggins praised this aspect of his game recently, and he’ll need to justify those words by preventing the extra chances that West Virginia has yielded on the offensive end. He can also help with West Virginia’s pressure, which, while still notable, has been a bit short of its productivity levels of the past couple of years, especially in the full court. Ahmad’s court coverage could be vital here, and can also come into play when deployed as either the point or a wing on the Mountaineers’ 1-3-1 defense.

  • The Ringer’s Mark Titus has his college basketball power rankings:

    In a season full of surprise teams soaring to unexpected heights, Texas Tech may be the biggest surprise of them all. The Red Raiders have ascended to the no. 8 spot in the AP poll despite being picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 during the preseason. They’ve already made two fan bases mash the panic button, blowing out Kansas 85–73 in Allen Fieldhouse early this month and destroying Northwestern 85–49 in November, a result so lopsided that it set the entire Northwestern program back … uhh … I guess only two years. Put together all the best stereotypes about typical Florida State and Cincinnati teams and you’ll get the 2017–18 Red Raiders, who have tons of athleticism, play an imposing brand of basketball, boast one of the best defenses in the country, and can’t shoot to save their lives.

    The Big 12 is going to be absolute madness all the way through March, and there’s no telling what kind of shape Texas Tech will be in when the dust settles. For right now, though, Chris Beard belongs in national coach of the year conversations, and the Red Raiders look every bit like a team that can walk away with one of college basketball’s most prestigious honors: being officially named the second-best Big 12 team by the most powerful power rankings in college basketball.

5. Official Site’s Official Preview The official site has your official preview of the game and head coach Chris Beard talks about playing the Mountaineers:

“I’m looking forward to game number five in the Big 12,” Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard said. “It’s an 18-round fight, and we have another really good team coming in here. It’s really important to try to protect the home court, but I think it’s more important to try to get our team continually getting better and play well. We have a lot of respect for West Virginia. It’s like a broken record in this league, but we are facing another Hall of Fame coach. There are really good players, NBA type players, on West Virginia’s team so we will have to play really well. We are hoping for a great crowd, and we are so appreciative of our fans to this point. As we continue to try to compete in this league, any kind of home court advantage is almost imperative so we hope people come out and support our team this Saturday.”

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