West Virginia Basketball: 3 keys to toppling No. 12 Texas Tech Red Raiders

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West Virginia Basketball Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia Basketball will have a golden opportunity for its best win of the season on Monday, hosting the 12th-ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders in a pivotal Big 12 showdown.

The Mountaineers have endured a tale of two seasons, courtesy of Oscar Tshiebwe and his mid-season departure.  After romping through the end of the 2020 calendar year with an 8-2 overall record, Tshiebwe’s sudden decision to leave left the Mountaineers in a dire situation, which led to an awful showing at Oklahoma in their first game without him, back on January 2nd.

But West Virginia’s three subsequent games have shown a vastly different – and improved – Mountaineers squad.  2-1 in those games – with wins over Oklahoma State and Kansas State, and the lone loss coming on a buzzer-beating three-pointer against Texas – the Mountaineers have looked the part of a team that could be a dark horse contender for the Big 12 title, courtesy of a shift to their well-renowned “Press Virginia” style.

West Virginia’s style of play was on full display against Kansas State.  Behind three double-digit scorers in Miles McBride (18 points), Jalen Bridges (12 points), and Taz Sherman (10 points), the Mountaineers forced 28 turnovers – which comes out to a turnover on 41.2% of KSU’s possessions – and held the Wildcats to just 0.69 points per possession.

But the Mountaineers are still on the hunt for a season-defining win.  The closest so far has been their victory at Oklahoma State, but they will have an even greater opportunity on Monday, welcoming in a scrappy and upset-hungry Texas Tech squad that has stood up well to premier teams.

The Red Raiders, who are entering the game at 11-4, have scooped up one of the best wins in all of college basketball, having knocked off Texas – in Austin.  Tech’s four losses are nothing to be ashamed about, either, coming at the hands of Houston, Kansas, Oklahoma State, and Baylor – with the latter three all by single-digits.

This is a win West Virginia desperately needs – not necessarily to prove themselves, but to finally get over the hump of knocking off one of college basketball’s finest.  The Mountaineers have yet to grab one of those wins, falling to Gonzaga, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas – all four teams ranking 23rd or better in KenPom.  Luckily, for West Virginia, they have the capability to pull out a win over Tech – but it will be a tough challenge.

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