West Virginia Mountaineers (23-9) at Texas Tech Red Raiders (24-8)
We picked up another win last night when we backed the West Virginia Mountaineers against the Baylor Bears laying -5-points. This was a quarter-finals matchup in the Big 12 tournament, and Baylor had to win in order to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive this year. The Bears gave it their all but, in the end, just couldn’t score the basketball efficiently enough to hang with West Virginia.
Baylor actually came out strong in this one and had an 18-9 lead early on, but eventually that West Virginia press and that swarming defense slowed them down. Jevon Carter is playing with a lot of fire right now as he knows this is his last go around in the Big 12 tournament and he played lockdown defense last night. Carter added 18 points and 11 assists to his 6 steals and would not let his team lose last night.
For Baylor, it is the end of an up and down season where they got to play the spoiler a lot of big upsets, but stumbled down the stretch and won’t be playing in the NCAA tournament next week.
Today I will stay right here in Kansas City and take a look at a semi-finals matchup in the Big 12 tournament between the West Virginia Mountaineers and the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
The West Virginia Mountaineers will look to stay hot tonight and advance to their third consecutive Big 12 tournament final as they play the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
West Virginia has had a long and winding road in the Big 12 this year, but they seem to be playing their best basketball at the moment and look poised to break through with the Big 12 tournament title. For Texas Tech this was a team that looked like they might make a run at a number one seed in the NCAA tournament before struggling late in the season.
Texas Tech has turned it around recently as they have won two straight games. This game is an even pick ‘em. The game total over-under is set at 143 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00 PM PST from the Sprint Center.
I have been a West Virginia fan all year long. Even through a couple of rough patches that saw this team struggle, I always saw them as a team built for tournament basketball. They have a senior leader in Jevon Carter that can single handily win them games on both ends of the court.
And they play a ferocious defense with a nasty full court press that wears teams down. That press gets especially tough when you are playing back to back games like both of these teams are tonight.
Elite defenses never take a night off, and that is why I always expected big things from the Mountaineers in March. They had a tough go of it in the middle of Big 12 league play but turned up the heat at the right time and have won four out of their last five games. Including an 84-74 victory over this Texas Tech team on February 26th.
Texas Tech is a lot more talented of a team than people think. They have every bit as much talent as the other top teams in the Big 12. Even when they climbed to the top of the league and national rankings, people were quick to dismiss their success.
I am not sure if it is just because we aren’t used to seeing the Red Raiders as an elite team, or if it is because they kind of snuck up on us this year, but whatever the case may have been, this team hasn’t gotten the love it deserves.
The Red Raiders are especially good when they have their All-Conference guard Keenan Evans on the court. Evans had missed a couple games with a bad toe, including the loss to West Virginia a couple of weeks ago.
Evans played great last night, but you just have to wonder how that tender toe is going to hold up playing back to back games. Will Evans be able to hold up against Carter and this West Virginia press tonight with a bad wheel? That may end up being the story of this game.
This is a great game. Two very good teams that could very well find themselves playing in the Final Four. If you don’t think both of these teams could make it to San Antonio this year you are nuts. These are teams built to win in March. But for me tonight, the difference in this matchup in momentum and health.
Winning games in March is so much more about staying healthy and getting hot than it is about how good of a season you had, and that is exactly what West Virginia has done. They got over their mid-season slump and are playing their best basketball right now.
That isn’t the case for Texas Tech. Tech lost four straight games to close out February and have only rebounded slightly to beat TCU without Jaylen Fischer and Texas without a healthy Mo Bamba.
The play of Keenan Evans will be a huge factor tonight, and I can’t imagine he will be anywhere near 100% after rushing back from an injury. He admits he isn’t fully healthy, and you have to respect his heart, but if he doesn’t play his best game, Texas Tech can’t win tonight.
In a vacuum, I think Texas Tech is the better team. But we don’t play college basketball in a vacuum, and I am forced to side with the hotter team that is playing better at the moment, and that has all of its best players healthy.
The injury to Evans couldn’t have come at a worse time, and for Tech’s sake, I hope he gets fully healed for the NCAA tournament. But for tonight, I am backing Bob Huggins and West Virginia.
Give me the West Virginia Mountaineers at an even pick ‘em tonight from Kansas City.