For the first time in the 2021-22 season, the No. 17 Texas Longhorns are set for a challenging game at the Erwin Center with the West Virginia Mountaineers coming to Austin on Saturday to open Big 12 play for both schools.
After completing the second-worst non-conference schedule in the country, the Longhorns are 10-2 with the nation’s best scoring defense bolstered by forcing turnovers on 28.7 percent of opposing possessions, also the top mark in the country. Offensively, Texas isn’t converting from three-point range at the rate head coach Chris Beard would like and and hasn’t gotten to the free-throw line frequently, but ranks No. 34 in adjusted efficiency, in part by avoiding turnovers.
Junior forward Dylan Disu has helped bolster the offense over the last three games — the Vanderbilt transfer has already found his rhythm after returning from a knee injury, racking up his first double double at Texas on Tuesday against Incarnate Word with 14 points and 11 rebounds, as well as five blocks, tying his career high.
Beard is still looking for his first win at Texas over a top-50 opponent following road losses to Gonzaga and Seton Hall and West Virginia will provide a strong challenge. At 11-1 under head coach Bob Huggins in his 15th season in Morgantown, the Mountaineers boast a top-30 defense and also turn opponents over at a high rate.
Guard Taz Sherman leads the way for West Virginia offensively, averaging 20.4 points per game by taking more than 17 shots per game and getting to the free-throw line with regularity. He’s also the primary playmaker with 2.8 assists per game on a team that employs a lot of one-on-one play offensively.
Other than Sherman, the primary threat from three-point range is guard Sean McNeil, who is hitting 36.8 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc and is one of only three players for West Virginia with double digit three-point makes.
The Mountaineers aren’t a strong shooting team overall, struggling at the foul line and from distance. Defensive rebounding is a problem, too — West Virginia ranks No. 331 nationally, allowing opponents to rebound more than a third of their misses.
KenPom.com gives Texas a 73-percent win probability with a projected score of 63-56.
Just before tipoff, West Virginia announced that several players will miss the game.
West Virginia's Gabe Osabuohien, Taz Sherman, and Kobe Johnson will miss today’s game at Texas due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, per release.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) January 1, 2022
Sherman averages 20.9 PPG.
How to Watch:
Time: 11:00 a.m. Central
Radio: Texassports.com affiliates
Odds: The Longhorns are 8.5-point favorites over the Mountaineers, according to DraftKings.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.