By Franklin Markel
The Mountaineers head into week 2 of Big 12 play with one of the hottest runs, nationwide. They’ve won 13 straight games, and are now ranked number 6 in the country. This week brings no easy tasks for WVU as the 7th ranked surging Oklahoma Sooners arrive in Morgantown for WVUs Big 12 home opener. After the top ten matchup the previously ranked Baylor Bears face WVU at home as well. West Virginia has a challenging week ahead and here’s how it should pan out.
7 Oklahoma Sooners, Saturday January 6th 7:15 PM.
This game has one huge matchup that will individually determine the outcome, Jevon Carter vs Trae Young. The best defensive player in college basketball faces the best offensive one.
Oklahoma as a team averages 95.8 points per game, the most in the country. The majority of those points come from the main three scorers for OU – Trae Young, Christian James, and Brady Manek. Young scores just under 30 points a game on 47% shooting from the floor and 40% from three, he also averaged 10 assists a game. Christian James starts as a forward and can shoot the ball very well, this season he is shooting 51% from the floor and 42% from 3. Forward Brady Manek, coming off a 28 point game vs Oklahoma State, is a lethal player at the 5. The 6’9 Center scores 11.8 points per game this season, and 5.6 rebounds, he shoots and hits a lot, despite his height. He averages 5.2 3PT attempts per game and shoots 435 on those threes. Both Young and Manek are freshman but have had no problems adjusting to the college game. Backup Center Jamuni McNeace also is a factor, shooting 69% from the floor.
Oklahoma wins games on scoring and the Press Virginia should give them a rude awakening. It should come down to the depth of WVU and the extra possessions, but more importantly, fewer possessions for OU because of the turnovers. Pair that with the fact that OU often struggles to play defense, and turns the ball over a decent amount which is sure to go up against Press Virginia, gives WVU a season changing win. 83-80 WVU.
Baylor Bears, Tuesday January 9th 7:00 PM
On January 9th, it will be exactly 364 days since Baylor last came to Morgantown, a day that didn’t turn out so well for them. For the first time in program history Baylor made it to NO.1 in the country. Their first game as No.1 was a 89-68 loss, in Morgantown. This year Baylor is unranked, WVU is in the top ten and Baylor already has 4 losses this season, all to ranked teams.
Baylor has a lot of scoring depth, seven guys they can put on the floor who can put the ball in the hoop, and 5 of those players average double digit points. Senior Point Guard Manu Lecomte averages 16.8 points per game, for the second straight game Jevon Carter will have a scoring threat PG to deal with. At 7 feet tall, Center Jo Lual-Acuil Jr is a threat in all aspects of the game, he averages a double double this season, with 15.6 points and 10.1 rebounds. After not playing vs Texas Tech he scored 28 points in a OT loss vs TCU. Forward Terry Mathson missed 5 games but is back for Big 12 play. In his 8 games he has played this season he averages 11.3 points per game and 7.8 rebounds. After a uncharacteristc 0-1 game vs TTU he had 20 points and 9 rebounds against TCU.
Baylor has a very solid team, but a road game in Morgantown is too much. 87-79 WVU.
If all goes right this will be a huge week for the Mountaineers and can not only get them into the top 5 but to 4-0 in Big 12 play.