After an impressive victory over the highly-ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders, the schedule only gets harder for the Texas Longhorns. Shaka Smart takes a trip to Morgantown to face Bob Huggins' West Virginia Mountaineers (15-3; 4-2). This is not an easy proposition.
For the Longhorns, the opponent once again has a senior guard who is a prospective All-American; seemingly half the teams in the Big 12 have a guard who is a credible All-American candidate. He is also the college basketball player who I would most want on my side if I had to fight a wolf. I am serious.
Jevon Carter took a razor to college basketball's most joked about hairline; we mourn its passing. But let's set that to the side; fans of his game — and I am definitely one of them — are enjoying his final trip through the Big 12.
What you need to know about Carter: he is the best on-ball defender in the Big 12, and quite possibly in all of college basketball. He has added major pieces to his game every year; last season he unveiled a new and improved perimeter stroke, and this season he has added some extra playmaking ability to go along with his exceptional defense and shooting. You won't find a better two-way perimeter player in the college game. He's a fully grown man; he's a baller.
Carter is the tip of the spear in West Virginia's full-court defense, and it remains as ferocious as ever. West Virginia still gets into guards 94 feet up the floor pretty much all game long. Meanwhile, the back end of that pressure has taken a major step forward as 6'8 sophomore Sagaba Konate has taken on more minutes. Konate is one of Mohamed Bamba's few peers in the unsubtle art of rim protection, but he handles his business differently. Bamba is lightning quick at positioning and erases shots with mobility and unfathomable length. Konate is more explosive and powerful — angrier — and his methods involve a ferocious violence at the rim that you have to respect.
The West Virginia lineup features a nice mixture of older and younger players. Carter's running mate in the back court is senior Daxter Miles, a fast and attacking guard with an inconsistent perimeter shot. With two seniors in the back court, and versatile junior forward Esa Ahmad, Coach Huggins has enough veterans holding things together with all of the kids.
The kids are pretty good. 6'0 sophomore James Bolden can shoot the ball and backs up Carter and Miles. I particularly like 6'5 freshman Teddy Allen — a player who just knows how to get buckets — and 6'8 sophomore Lamont West, who is tough at the front of the press, and has a sweet stroke from the perimeter. West rotates with 6'8 sophomore Wesley Harris -- another perimeter shooting four man who hasn't shot the ball all that well this year.
The Longhorns are going to have their hands full. West Virginia's ethos is raw aggression, but its senior guards manage to walk the line that divides aggressive and stupid exceptionally well. For Texas to find an upset, they will have to do the things you always have to do to win in Morgantown: take care of the ball, and keep West Virginia off the offensive glass. Matt Coleman, Kerwin Roach, and Texas' other ball handlers had better come to play, and Mo Bamba, Dylan Osetkowski, and Jericho Sims need to be ready to rebound.
The game tips off Saturday at 1 p.m. CT, and airs on CBS.