Though the West Virginia Mountaineers are just 15-10, Ken Pomeroy has them ranked 45th in the country. Bob Huggins' squad is 7-5 in Big 12 play, and shouldn't hang their head for any of their 5 non-conference losses, either.
The Texas Longhorns already beat West Virginia once in Morgantown. Luckily for the Horns, WVU isn't as formidable on the road. The Mountaineers' best road win is a two-point squeaker at Baylor.
That said, West Virginia is an elite offensive team. If Texas struggles to score early and lets a couple of Mountaineers get hot, it could be a long night.
Juwan Staten: The 6' 1" junior point guard has a strong case for Big 12 Player of the Year honors. He leads the team in PPG and APG, with 18.3 and 6.0, respectively. Staten is also a quality rebounder, averaging 5.9 RPG, primarily on the defensive end. He penetrates well and rarely turns the ball over, two plus qualities for a lead guard. His only flaw is an inability to shoot from the outside.
Eron Harris: The 6' 3" sophomore teams with Staten to give WVU a top-flight backcourt. Harris will shoot from beyond the arc without impunity. He has attempted 164 treys this year, making 42.1%. Demarcus Holland will likely draw defensive duties.
Terry Henderson: The 6' 4" sophomore is the third leg of a very good backcourt tripod. With defenses focused on stopping Staten and Harris, Henderson has quietly put together a very good season. He's third on the team with 12.2 PPG, behind Staten and Harris' 17.4 PPG.
Remi Dibo: The 6' 7" junior, a first-year juco transfer, recently moved into the starting lineup. He has had an up-and-down season, but after sitting the entire game against Texas Tech a few weeks ago, Dibo has started to put things together. In WVU's latest win against Iowa State, Dibo had a team-high 20 points.
Devin Williams: The 6' 9" freshman was a 4*, top 75 recruit, and the jewel of Huggins' 2013 class. He's still a work in progress at this point, but has contributed positive minutes and is a plus rebounder.
Gary Browne: The 6' 1" junior has the talent to start but is stuck behind Staten and Harris for minutes. The dropoff in quality is there, but it's not overtly significant.
Nathan Adrian, Brandon Watkins: Adrian and Watkins are a duo of 6' 9" freshmen who provide promising, quality depth. Adrian is an outside-in player, while Watkins is more comfortable banging down inside.
Kevin Noreen: The 6' 10" junior never blossomed as expected. His name had been penciled into the starting lineup, but he has been supplanted by the Dibo.
Keys to Victory:
1. Attack the frontcourt: The Mountaineers have depth, but not experience, up front. With Jonathan Holmes expected back, Texas needs to leverage its talent and experience at the 4 and 5. Also noteworthy: aside from Williams, the Mountaineers are a mediocre rebounding team.
2. No Marcus Fostering: Texas will focus its defensive efforts on Staten and Harris, but that doesn't mean it can simply ignore WVU's other players. The Longhorns saw K-State's Marcus Foster get hot early and never stop. A guy like Henderson has the potential to light Texas up if the Horns aren't clamping down defensively all over the court.
3. Taylor Over Staten: This is a big show-me game for Isaiah Taylor. He brought the wood against Oklahoma State's Markel Brown, and Taylor faces an equally tough challenge against the talented Staten. If Taylor can win the one-on-one battle here, that would be gravy.
4. Score: Too obvious, perhaps? As good as WVU is offensively, the Mountaineers are not a great defensive team. Texas needs to continues its scoring outburst from the Oklahoma State game tonight against Huggins' squad.
Unfortunately, the game is on LHN. But if you're lucky enough to get the network, it's on at 7:00 p.m.