West Virginia-TCU Preview
After his team's double-overtime Big 12 opener, Bob Huggins insisted the conference doesn't have much of a noticeable drop off and nothing will come easily for West Virginia over the next few months.
TCU unsurprisingly hinted at contradicting that statement as it started conference play.
The 17th-ranked Mountaineers visit the Horned Frogs on Monday night with Huggins' team looking to remain perfect in the series, though that's hardly a noticeable accomplishment.
West Virginia (12-1) won 87-83 at Kansas State on Saturday, and its fifth straight win came despite going 3 of 20 from 3-point range while also struggling to force the Wildcats into the typical mistakes of the Mountaineers' press. Even with the additional 10 minutes, Kansas State limited itself to 15 turnovers, which is 6.4 below the season average of West Virginia opponents.
"There's just no bottom in this league," Huggins said. "That's what makes it so hard. With a lot of leagues, there's a bottom, but this has no bottom. And the coaching in this league is incredible."
Jaysean Paige scored a career-high 25 points off the bench, 20 of which came after halftime. The guard has averaged 19.7 points in his last three games after starting the season with 10.1 through 10 games.
"We wanted to try and lift him as much as we could lift him so he could get it at the rim," Huggins said. "He's our best athlete, and he's gotten better and better and better as the season's gone on."
The Mountaineers weren't their usual selves on the offensive glass, pulling down 15 in a season in which they rank second in the country with 17.8 per game and a top-five overall rebounding advantage of plus-12.7.
"We just didn't rebound it as well as we normally rebound it," Huggins told the school's official website. "We didn't do a lot of things as well as what we normally do."
TCU, meanwhile, hasn't had a rebounding advantage in any of its five losses, including Saturday's 69-48 embarrassment at Oklahoma State.
West Virginia has won all six meetings since both teams joined the league for the 2012-13 season. TCU has dropped 26 of its last 27 against the Top 25, while West Virginia has won its last 26 against unranked opponents by an average of 19.6 points.
Prior to the conference opener, TCU (8-5) had won four straight, but that competition - Prairie View A&M, Abilene Christian, Bradley and Delaware State - clearly didn't prepare it for the Big 12. The Horned Frogs shot 30 percent and made 1 of 17 from 3-point range.
"Oklahoma State is a great example of guys playing together as a team," coach Trent Johnson said. "We have to learn from that."
That was particularly true of the Horned Frogs' starting five, which combined for 20 points. Top scorer Vladimir Brodziansky (13.2) has been limited to 7.7 points and attempted just 18 shots in his last three games, while No. 2 scorer Malique Trent (9.3) is shooting 33.3 percent over the same span.
They've now won just seven of 59 games since joining the conference and could be well on their way to finishing last in the league for the third time in four seasons.
"We have a lot of work to do to figure it out," Johnson told the school's official website. "We aren't where we need to be in terms of mental or physical toughness versus good people. We need to get it corrected and find out how competitive we want to be in this league."