West Virginia (21-10 SU, 15-15-1 ATS) is the Big 12’s best rebounding team at both ends of the floor. And much of their game is predicated on getting second chances. The Mountaineers are very well-equipped in this regard, as they rank as the nation’s #1 offensive rebounding team, pulling down 40% of all available chances.
At the forefront of this is Oscar Tshiebwe, a freshman originally from the Congo who was one of the great recruiting coups in school history. Tshiebwe has played well enough that he is, on an individual basis, the nation’s top gun on the offensive glass. And of course, at 6-10 and 245 pounds, Derek Culver is a force to be reckoned with.
Can this translate into success in the Big 12 tournament, which, for them, begins Thursday at 9 PM ET at the Sprint Center in Kansas City? Here were the odds from BetAnySports as far as winning the tournament was concerned (teams could be eliminated by the time you read this):
Texas Tech +650
WEST VIRGINIA +700
Oklahoma State +6000
Iowa State +20000
Kansas State +20000
Under Bob Huggins, the Mountaineers are always going to be the kind of team that can force turnovers, but have not done so these last two seasons as they have in the past. They are, unfortunately, rather turnover-prone themselves on the offensive end (296th in offensive turnover percentage). They are among the nation’s best at getting out and defending the triple (allowing just 28.8%), but they also can’t hit the side of the barn from out there, with only a 28.6% accuracy rate from downtown.
A huge concern for West Virginia is that they leave points on the table at the free throw line, as they make just 62.5% from the charity stripe. That is worst in the Big 12 by far, and only 17 out of the 353 teams in Division I ball have hit a lower percentage.
There is obviously no problem with the Mountaineers making the NCAA Tournament field. But there is not telling where they’ll be situated. It was not advantageous to them that they ended their regular season losing six of their last nine. But a 76-64 win over Baylor this past Saturday most definitely helped their cause.
We’re thinking WVU may be as high as a #5 seed, but also could find themselves in the #8 spot. They open up Big 12 tournament play on Thursday against Oklahoma. And if the two meetings this season are any indication, this is not a matchup that favors them.
At BetAnySports, the Mountaineers are favored:
West Virginia Mountaineers -3.5
Oklahoma Sooners +3.5
Over 134.5 points -110
Under 134.5 points -110
As for the matchup, well, for starters, the Sooners are a team that makes its free throws at a very high rate. They also force plenty of turnovers from their opponents, and we’ve mentioned how vulnerable West Virginia can be in that area.
However, things were a tad different in the first meeting, a 69-59 Oklahoma win. In that one, the Sooners committed 19 turnovers and gave up 21 offensive rebounds. Their saving grace was that they made 13 more free throws. In the rematch, West Virginia had 20 more offensive boards, but was 4-of-25 from three-point range.
The consistent fundamental was the ability to get second shot opportunities. Now they have to be able to make those fall. That might constitute the difference between covering and, well, not. All we can tell you is that it is very hard to beat a team ranked higher than you are three times in one season.
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