The bad news is West Virginia has lost five of its last six games. The Mountaineers have gone from a team in position to secure a high seed and favorable locale in the NCAA Tournament to a team that is staring at the NCAA Tournament bubble and maybe even (gulp) the NIT over the horizon.
The good news is WVU is at home on Saturday. The Mountaineers are the Big 12’s worst road team. They’re tied with the league’s best teams (No. 1 Kansas, No. 2 Baylor) in conference home record (6-1).
Oklahoma (17-11, 7-8 Big 12) visits the Coliseum on Saturday in a critical game for both teams. Both the Sooners and Mountaineers (19-9, 7-8) seek victories to solidify their NCAA and Big 12 tournament seed and position. The teams are in a three-way tie (along with Texas) for fourth-through-sixth place in the conference.
Conference finish is important because teams that finish sixth and higher get an opening-round bye in the Big 12 Conference Tournament. TCU (15-13, 6-9) is currently in seventh place, a game behind those three.
Oklahoma is struggling almost as much as the Mountaineers. The Sooners have dropped four of their last six. They did win their last game, a 65-51 win over Texas Tech on Tuesday. The Sooners also won their previous matchup against West Virginia, a 69-59 win in Norman, Okla., on Feb. 8.
Senior forward Kristian Doolittle paces the Sooners, leading the team in points (15.5 points per game) and rebounds (8.9 per game). He dominated the Mountaineers in the first meeting, tallying a double-double with a game-high 27 points and 12 rebounds.
Jermaine Haley (15 points) and Oscar Tshiebwe (12 points, nine rebounds) led WVU in the first-meeting defeat at OU.
If the Mountaineers are going to reverse their recent slide, they need to shoot better than they have during the skid – and than they did in the first meeting in Oklahoma. West Virginia hit just 31.6 percent in the first meeting. The Mountaineers have shot just 36.6 percent from the field during their last six games.
WVU also needs to play better defense against OU than it has recently or the first meeting. The Sooners hit 44.9 percent of their shots in the victory in Norman. That is similar to how teams have shot against the Mountaineers during the last six games (45.4 percent). On the season, WVU ranks 11th in the nation in field-goal percentage defense (38.4 percent). The Mountaineers need to return to that kind of defense if they hope to stop their current slide.
The analytics are very favorable for the West Virginia against the Sooners. ESPN BPI gives the Mountaineers a 90.1 percent odds of victory. Unfortunately, the Mountaineers were BPI favorites in their last two games – at TCU and at Texas. Both ended in defeat.
Vegas is also bullish on the Mountaineers, making them a 8 1/2 point betting favorite.
The game tips off at 4 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN2.