Proposal to stop playing in Manhattan(s). Reason: Two of WVU’s three losses this season have come in a city named Manhattan — a Dec. 7 loss to St. John’s in MSG and over the weekend to Kansas State . In both cases, WVU’s signature defense failed to materialize and this simply isn’t a strong enough offensive unit to overcome that against any team.
Outside of those two games though, WVU has been exemplary on defense, a trend that continued against Texas as the Mountaineers demolished the Longhorns in impressive fashion.
Blowouts can sometimes be a little misleading, but it was good to see Emmitt Matthews get his stroke back. His eight points might not seem like a lot, but given that he’d only scored 7 total in the previous five conference games... yeah. As I’ve written previously, WVU needs production from Matthews (and Haley) for a variety of reasons, least of which is to force defenses to stay honest on them and not just pack it inside to slow down Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe. So this is a promising sign that he can get back to his earlier levels of production when he was one of the key pieces of the team.
WVU gets a reprieve over the weekend from the rigors of conference play as they host Missouri in the Big XII/SEC Challenge. WVU is 1-5 in the competition, giving us the distinction of being the only conference team with a losing record in the competition. (Kansas State, Texas and Iowa State are each 3-3.) I have a theory on why WVU has under performed, but I am holding off for now.
After the brief respite, WVU gets a four-day break ahead of their first return game of the season in Lubbock.
Big XII Power Rankings Week 2
- Baylor Bears, 16-1 Despite a scare in Stillwater (there are no bad road wins in this league), the Bears cashed in on a slew of losses by top 5 teams to claim the #1 ranking they rightly deserved. The Bears have a tricky road game in the B12/SEC Challenge as they head to Gainsville where the Gators have been at their best, having blasted then #4 Auburn 69-47, before another tricky road game in Ames.
- Kansas Jayhawks, 15-3 Brawl aside, losing Silivio De Sousa is the worst thing that happened to Kansas since we last checked in. The brawny forward provides a much needed back-up for Udoka Azubuike. The length of his suspension will be telling, but given Kansas’ history, I expect 5-6 games. In the interim, Kansas gets a rebuilding Tennessee that shouldn’t give them too much trouble in the Challenge, before a quick turnaround game in Stillwater.
- West Virginia Mountaineers, 15-3
- TCU Horned Frogs, 13-5 So far, Last week, I said TCU needed to win a game they weren’t “supposed” to win if they wanted to get into the bubble conversation with any seriousness, having missed a few opportunities. They responded by losing, badly, in Norman. The, astonishingly, handled Texas Tech.
- Oklahoma Sooners, 12-6 Like TCU, the Sooners need wins to to burnish their resume as we head into February. A win over TCU is good step in that direction, especially after getting blown out in Ames earlier this season. Unfortunately, the Sooners came up short of an even bigger win in Waco, falling 61-57 on Monday night.
- Texas Tech Red Raiders, 12-6 Tech may have a better RPI than either TCU or Oklahoma, but their only conference wins have came against Kansas State and Iowa State. It doesn’t get easier for Chris Beard’s club either: they host Kentucky in the Challenge then have WVU and Kansas in a three day span.
- Texas Longhorns, 12-6 After a 10-2 start, the Longhorns have gone 2-4 in conference play. The 38 point loss to WVU (which was somehow even less competitive than the score indicates) has taken the rumblings about Shaka Smart’s future to fevered pitch. Smart is almost certainly on his last legs, but there’s plenty of opportunities for him to save his job. Still it won’t be easy. A good start would be winning against surprising SEC leader LSU, or even maybe scoring more points than the football team did against them earlier this year.
- Iowa State Cyclones, 9-9 The ‘Clones picked up a much needed win against Oklahoma State but looked terrible in a 72-52 loss to Tech. A road trip to Auburn and a return game with Baylor doesn’t bode well.
- Kansas State Wildcats, 8-10 How Kansas State was this week? Beat WVU, get blown out by Kansas in a game marred by a brawl like to see several players suspended.
- Oklahoma State Cowboys, 9-9 After blowing a huge lead in Stillwater against Baylor, the Cowboys lost their eighth straight in Ames in what is, safe to say, a lost season for the once proud program.
WVU Weekly Awards
- MVP Gabe Osabouhien Last week’s Hustle Award winner continues to improve as the season goes on and is now bringing an offensive threat to his game.
- Hustle Award Oscar Tshiebwe The Big O continues to impress and lead the way, his scoop and score against Texas is legendary.
- Most Improved Player Jordan McCabe Fans and pundits alike questioned why Huggs stayed with the sophomore guard despite continued excellence from freshman Deuce McBride and Brandon Knapper, but McCabe has continued to improve his shooting and remains WVU’s best ball handler and passer, especially in critical situations. Against Texas, he went 4-7 from the field on his way to a season-high 10 points, including 2-3 from beyond the arc.