Bob Huggins and Rick Barnes share 57 seasons of head coaching experience and 1,269 combined victories,and yet neither has a bead on his team entering Wednesday night’s game in Austin.
“Like Bobby, I don’t know what to expect,” Barnes said. “We probably neither one know what to expect.”
The two proud programs have endured humbling lessons the past two months. Both teams lost their Big 12 openers and both have miles of ground to make up in order to even become part of the NCAA tournament discussion. Texas (8-6, 0-1) sits at No. 122 in the RPI while West Virginia (7-6, 0-1) is 105.
West Virginia (7-6, 0-1) at Texas (8-6, 0-1) WHEN: Wednesday, 9 p.m. TV: ESPN2 RADIO: MetroNews coverage starts at 8 p.m.
“The one thing we know: We’ve both had programs that have played at the very highest level and that’s the standard in which we both believe in.”
And it’s a standard neither team has approached this season. In advance of tonight’s crucial game at the Erwin Center, here’s a FIVE KEYS primer on Texas:
1. The Longhorns have struggled offensively, but sophomore guard Sheldon McClellan has been one consistent. He tops Texas in scoring at 15.9 points per game and has reached double figures in all 14 games this season.
He’s an 84-percent free-throw shooter who made 14-of-14 against Fresno State in a win earlier this season.
But even after a high-scoring output in Saturday’s 86-79 overtime loss at Baylor, Barnes saw too many lapses to admit to any improvement with his team’s offense.
“Some guys made some shots, but what we’re looking at execution-wise, we didn’t screen, and we didn’t read cuts the way we want to read them,” he said. “It’s not looking at just making shots and scoring points. I wouldn’t say we’re happier with it.”
“He’s got a great knack to get he ball into the lane,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, whose team has had problems stopping penetration by opposing point guards. “He plays so strong with the ball.”
Felix has the reins now, at least until sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo returns from NCAA suspension Feb. 13 against Iowa State.
He has a team-high 27 blocks for a squad that ranks 11th nationally and second in the Big 12 in blocks.
The No. 8 overall prospect in the 2012 recruiting class according to ESPN, Ridley was part of a Texas signing class that ranked third nationally.
He had his first double-double with a 14-point, 10-rebound effort in a 65-63 loss to UCLA in Houston.
The Longhorns freshman has 20 blocks this season. With a team total of 83 blocks in 14 games, this year’s squad is on pace to register more swats than any in Rick Barnes’ previous 14 years at Texas.
That interior defense is a primary reason the Longhorns lead the nation in field-goal percentage defense (.339) and 3-point percentage defense (.238) Texas is yielding only 60.2 points per game.
5. Texas has been to the NCAA tourney 14 consecutive years, the fourth-longest streak behind Kansas (23), Duke (17) and Michigan State (15). But Barnes isn’t talking about those kind of long-term goals right now — he’s more concerned with convincing his team to focus on the details that go into every possession.
“We are who we are, he said. “We’re an 8-6 team for a reason because we haven’t been consistently tough enough to do the things that are necessary to win basketball games.”