Big Monday brings us a Top 15 matchup in the Big 12 as the No. 14 West Virginia Mountaineers host the No. 12 Texas Tech Red Raiders. At home, the Mountaineers are 2.5-point favorites with the over/under set at 137 points.
West Virginia has a lot to prove in this game, as the Mountaineers have struggled against the top teams in the Big 12. While they’ve managed to close out games against the league’s lesser teams, the Mountaineers have lost to Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. On the bright side, West Virginia showed no signs of rust after having three straight games postponed, beating Kansas State 69-47 over the weekend.
The Red Raiders are in a similar position, having their last two games postponed. Texas Tech hasn’t played since January 16th, when they lost to Baylor. However, the Red Raiders had won three straight games prior to that loss, including an upset win over Texas, so it’ll be interesting to see if they remain confident after the loss to Baylor and the long lay off.
To some extent, the Red Raiders have been saved this season by the arrival of Georgetown transfer Mac McClung. He’s the team’s leading scorer with 16.3 points per game.
Perhaps more importantly, McClung has been at his best against the best, scoring over 20 points against Kansas, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Baylor. Texas Tech has also received a nice boost from sophomore guard Kevin McCullar, who returned from injury in late December and has immediately become one of Texas Tech’s leading scorers and best rebounders. McCullar has recorded a double-double in two of his last three games, giving the Red Raiders a much-needed boost on the boards.
Unfortunately, the Red Raiders still lack in size outside of McCullar and 6-7 forward Marcus Santo-Silva. Point guard play is also a little lacking, as everyone on the roster averages fewer than three assists per game. The Red Raiders have become reliant on McClung and Kyler Edwards making outside shots. When that doesn’t happen, Texas Tech can run into trouble.
The Mountaineers are led by one of the best inside-outside tandems in the Big 12. Guard Miles McBride leads the way with 15.3 points and 4.1 assists per game. He is the team’s top scorer and catalyst for West Virginia’s offense.
On the inside, forward Derek Culver averages a double-double with 13.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. However, he has less help on the interior since Oscar Tshiebwe left the program.
Fortunately for the Mountaineers, their backcourt has stepped up to make up for a weakened frontcourt. Both Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil are capable three-point shooters, shooting 38.7% and 32.9% from the three-point line, respectively. Their presence helps to create opportunities for McBride while punishing teams that focus too much attention on McBride.
As mentioned, West Virginia has struggled to pull out close games against the best teams in the Big 12. But they’re due to win a game like this. Playing at home against a team that hasn’t played in 10 days is the perfect opportunity for West Virginia to grab a statement win.