The Oklahoma Sooners are 2-1 in conference play. Looking to bolster their record and potentially the ranking, Lon Kruger and the rest of the group head to Morgantown, WV to take on a top program in the West Virginia Mountaineers. The game should provide entertainment as both teams possess athleticism and the ability to get out in transition. Matt Kirchner of the Smoking Musket sat down for a few minutes to preview the game with us.
CCM - West Virginia missed the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons. With a couple of transfers heading for "greener pastures" including Eron Harris and another headed back to Europe, what were the expectations heading into this season?
Matt Kirchner - Honestly, I still had pretty high expectations. Obviously, the losses of Harris and Henderson were big offensive hits, but we did recruit the guard position pretty well and I was confident that we'd have the tools we needed there -- just wasn't sure who would be the exact player who replaced the scoring. Defensively, both players were liabilities and earned the ire of Huggins on multiple occasions. Plus, it never hurts when you bring back Juwan Staten.
I didn't expect this team to be 14-2, but I definitely expected them to compete for a good tourney seed, and honestly, if they didn't, I might have started calling for Huggins' job.
CCM - Is this a roster that Bob Huggins can finally compete for a Big XII Championship with?
MK - I've been scared of committing to this team, but I really believe that it is. There's not a ton of big names outside of Staten, but they never stop playing and frustrate opponents to their breaking points game in and game out. It'll be a tough one and there will be travel losses, but this team should be there at the end of the season.
CCM - Juwan Staten continues to evolve into one of the premier guards of college basketball. Who else can we expect to contribute against the Sooners on Tuesday?
MK - The biggest strength of this team is it's depth. There's not a real "number two" guy after Staten, and the goal is really to let everyone on the team have their points and contribute in their own way. From the guards, look for a lot of Jay'Sean Paige and Jevon Carter. Jonathan Holton will play the three and stretch four, and Devin Williams has come into his own a bit as a big time rebounder and post player.
CCM - The Mountaineers lead the nation in steals per game with active hands in passing lanes. Do you expect this game to turn into a track meet with the pressure WVU provides in the backcourt and the athleticism Oklahoma possesses?
MK - Scoring in transition off the press is the Mountaineers game. Our half-court game is very weak right now, so if we can turn a game into a track meet, we definitely will.
CCM - What one stat could easily decide this game before it's all said and done?
MK - Offensive rebounds. It's Bob Huggins' bread and butter and we've made our record this year by shooting roughly a trillion more shots than our opponents and second chance points are critical for that. Iowa State beat us at our own game on Saturday, and I'm sure that Huggs is furious at that.
CCM - Give us your score prediction.
MK - I think it'll be a close one, but WVU pulls out a close one at home, something to the tune of 70-65 or so.