Game Day Vitals
- West Virginia Mountaineers (7-0, 0-0 Big 12) vs. LSU Tigers (5-2, 0-0 SEC)
- Series Record: 1-1, last matchup was a 2005 71-68 OT loss in the Coliseum
- Location: Oliver Garden (Capacity: 14,000) Morgantown, West Virginia
- Vegas Lines: (-9.5) for the good guys, O/U: 147.0
- Date: Thursday, December 4th, 2014, at 7:00PM ET
- Television: ESPN2 / WatchESPN
- O/U Jerry West-Pete Maravich name drops: 1.5
- Radio Affiliates
- LSU Tigers (5-2, 0-0 SEC)
- Head Coach - Johnny Jones (that's his real name), Third year as LSU head coach, 47-28 (.626)
- Last Result - W at home vs. UMass Fightin' Jabarie Hinds 82-60
- Official LSU athletics website
- LSU SB Nation - And The Valley Shook
The Internet is Fun
The West Virginia Mountaineers have largely done everything you could ask of them thus far this season. They have won every game except for one by double digits. They won the Puerto Rico Tipoff by rattling the defending national champions UConn Huskies. Juwan Staten is averaging 15/4 with Jonathan Holton and Devin Williams holding a friendly competition for double-doubles. They lead the nation in steals from pressing the entire game and have the depth at guard to do it.
While this is all very good, it would be even more impressive if they had the schedules of past years to reinforce their resume. Unfortunately, the Mountaineers have been facing largely lower-tier teams causing their SOS to be at 153. West Virginia is normally in the top ten when it comes to schedule difficulty, but the weak 2014-2015 non-conference slate forces each matchup to be leaning on must-win to avoid a build up of that dreaded "bad losses" graphic in March. This leaves games against legitimate, P5 programs such as tonight's battle with LSU at an even higher premium than usual. We need this one.
LSU comes into the WVU Coliseum with a respectable record and ESPN RPI ranking, but they are rather unproven. The loss to Old Dominion isn't that concerning considering the Monarchs are a good team, but Clemson is probably bad and an OT win against Texas Tech who is also probably bad doesn't breathe a lot of confidence into their resume coming into Morgantown. One significant factor is that the Tigers have only played at home and neutral sites so far this season. Judging from the buzz around campus, the Coliseum should be in full force tonight especially with the students in town between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The Tigers do, however, have a talented team. There are tons of headlines about the former-Texas Tech/JUCO transfer point guard Josh Gray who will probably enter the draft following this season. Gray shoots around 44% from beyond the arc and is a natural scorer. That being said, Keith Hornsby and Tim Quarterman, the 2 and 3 respectively, do a good job of contributing both in point production and rebounding. Sophomores Jordan Mickey (6'8) and Jarell Martin (6'10) get the majority of the minutes on the floor representing the LSU frontcourt. With Mickey's 17.5/10 and Martin's 15.8/8.7, this is both LSU's strength and weakness. The big men finish around the basket, but there is not much when it comes to depth behind them. The Tigers do have two young seven-footers on the roster, but it doesn't appear that Johnny Jones is prepared to start giving them substantial minutes yet.
The key to the game will absolutely be if West Virginia can turnover LSU in the press. Josh Gray is a special talent, but that doesn't mean much if you can't get the ball across half court. It will be interesting to see how both teams respond to the high-intensity atmosphere inside the WVU Coliseum, especially the young Mountaineer guards. If they can keep a high energy level and stay disciplined in that defensive pressure, West Virginia should roll. Or, well, reauxll.
Prediction: WVU 81, LSU 66