The earlier matchup between the two teams resulted in the biggest blowout of the Shaka Smart era, as the Mountaineers blasted the Longhorns 97-59 in a game that was never competitive.
Since then, Texas has suffered a myriad of injuries that have sidelined three opening night starters. Junior point guard Matt Coleman is also battling a heel injury that forced him to miss one game and left him hobbled against Kansas State on Saturday, though he did manage to play 34 minutes and score 12 points.
West Virginia has faced its own adversity recently — after an 18-4 start, the Mountaineers have lost four of the last five games and haven’t won on the road in conference play since beating the Cowboys in Stillwater in early January. While two of those losses came against Kansas and Baylor, the top two teams in the country according to KenPom.com’s adjusted efficiency metric, the other two losses were against Oklahoma and TCU, teams with 6-8 conference records.
The defense isn’t the problem, as West Virginia still ranks No. 2 nationally in that category by defending the three-point line well and forcing turnovers. It’s the offense that is causing problems for the Mountaineers, especially shooting the basketball — West Virginia struggles from the beyond the arc and from the free-throw line. Leading the nation in offensive rebounding by securing over 40 percent of their own misses provides some margin for error, but turnover issues against Kansas and Baylor significantly reduced the impact of that offensive rebounding rate.
Against Texas, West Virginia only turned the ball over eight times and collected 23 offensive rebounds while shooting 53.6 percent from inside the arc and 42.9 percent from beyond it. The free-throw line was a challenge, as the Mountaineers only converted at 59.4 percent, but attempted twice as many as the Longhorns.
Without junior forward Jericho Sims, who is out indefinitely with a back injury, keeping West Virginia off the offensive glass will be a difficult task Texas — even with Sims, the Mountaineers rebounded five more of their own missed shots than the Longhorns did. If Texas can’t limit those extra opportunities and force more turnovers than they did four weeks ago, the Horns could get blown out again.
The game tips off at 6 p.m. Central on ESPNU. West Virginia has a 66 percent win probability, according to KenPom.com, with a projected score of 64-60.