Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Even in the sock-optional Maui Invitational, there was nothing casual about the way Rick Barnes felt after watching his Texas team lose to USC and Division II Chaminade.

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.”

2. While Texas point guard Javan Felix (3) leads the Big 12 and all NCAA freshmen with 6.6 assists per game, he also can score — witness his 26 points in the loss at Baylor.

“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.

3. Texas 6-foot-9 freshman center Cameron Ridley possesses both bulk and length — not to mention good timing.

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.

4. As Baylor’s Cory Jefferson learned, shooting over 6-foot-10 Texas forward Prince Ibeh is no short order.

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.”

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  • Pghmountaineer

    Hats off to these guys. They didn't play well but they did battle. I sure wish they could shoot the ball but it appears that's not going to happen. It's going to be a long season so get ready for a roller coaster ride. I don't think they can win 15 games this year but maybe they'll improve their shooting percentage and make it interesting.

  • Jethro

    Hey even UNC is having a bad year

  • Pghmountaineer

    Get set for another disappointing game tonight. Poor shooting, spotty defense, and the bigs getting in foul trouble early and rendering themselves useless to make an impact on the game. Then Huggs comes on after the game and has no answers. SOS.

    • wvtomd

      i hope you are wrong but i get the feeling you will not be. the players we thought would step up have taken a step back. maybe the coach will find a good combination of players and turn this around. i losing my faith that the season can be.