While some other "power" conferences may be declining, the Big12 shapes up being as competitive as ever, and two of the teams who might be making a lot of noise come March are the Texas Tech Red Raiders and West Virginia Mountaineers, who will meet up at the WVU Coliseum in Morgantown on Monday.
It will be the second half of ESPN's "Big Monday" doubleheader, tipping off at 9 PM ET (and following the Virginia-Syracuse game).
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TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS at WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS, 9 PM ET (ESPN)
Big 12 Basketball Betting Odds: West Virginia -1.5, Total 136.5
West Virginia had to stay off the floor for two weeks because of COVID-related postponements. Then they came back with a vengeance, throwing Kansas State around like a rag doll. The 69-47 romp was punctuated by 29 K-State turnovers.
This is the way things USED to be for West Virginia, when they were known as "Press Virginia." But they don't really rate that moniker any more, not when they are just 70th in the nation in Defensive TO Percentage. Seriously, what is the purpose of pressuring the opponent if it can't eventually lead to a turnover?
Texas Tech isn't one of those airtight teams like Virginia (its conqueror in the NCAA title game two years ago and one-half of the opening Big Monday matchup). But they are hardly a squad that is going to fumble it all over the place.
The thing about WVU is that it must go the rest of the way without Oscar Tshiebwe, the 6-9 forward who, combined with Derek Culver, gave the Mountaineers some intimidating stuff up front.
Tshiebwe is transferring to Kentucky,and that takes away a lot of WVU's ferocity on the glass. They are eight in the nation in offensive rebounding, but Tshiebwe contributed 3.8 caroms a game in that regard. So they have to approach things a different way.
So what they've done is play Culver in the middle and put some perimeter players out there with him. So they will organically be depending more on hitting from the outside.
The Red Raiders don't mind any of this, for multiple reasons. One is that they are not looking for triples as much as they are chances to get to the free throw line. If WVU isn't as big, T-Tech will be harder to defend. And Chris Beard's team does a hell of a job on the offensive boards themselves (22nd best in the nation).
Texas Tech is playing its first game in nine days because of postponements. Will rust be a factor? It could. And it would be a bigger one if they had to rely more on precision shooting from the deep perimeter. But we're thinking that getting some extra days helps them prepare for a tricky WVU side, which is good enough to have hung in pretty well against Gonzaga, Oklahoma and Texas, even in defeat.
By the way, those last two teams we mentioned - Oklahoma and Texas - represent another potential mark in the Red Raiders' favor, because they beat those teams on the road. Defense travels, and we're talking about the team that is fourth in the nation in KenPom's Adjusted Defensive Efficiency rankings.
We're going with visiting Texas Tech.
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