WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS
Record: 23-9. Ranking: No. 18 in nation. Finish: Fifth place in the Big 12 Conference.
1. West Virginia uses a full-court press defense and leads the nation in turnover percentage, forcing giveaways on 28 percent of opponents’ possessions. UB is good at protecting the ball, ranking 35th in the country in limiting turnovers. West Virginia plays at a fast tempo, but UB loves a fast tempo, too.
2. West Virginia is a great rebounding team. It ranks fourth in the nation in percentage of offensive rebounds grabbed. UB is a good offensive rebounding team itself, but the Bulls’ defensive rebounding ability will be challenged. UB isn’t used to facing an assault on the backboard like the Mountaineers can wage. West Virginia doesn’t shoot well – it ranks 282nd of 351 in shooting percentage (41.2). But it more than makes up for it by getting second and third chances off the glass.
3. The Mountaineers can match UB’s outstanding backcourt with a superb backcourt of its own – presuming it is healthy. West Virginia has two senior starting guards in 6-1 Juwan Staten (14.5 ppg) and 6-1 Gary Browne (7.0 ppg). They’re both coming off injuries. Staten, WVU’s leading scorer, has missed the last four games with a knee injury but said, “I’m definitely going to play in the tournament.” Brown missed the last three with a left ankle injury. Coach Bob Huggins said he is expected to be ready.
4. The Mountaineers foul like crazy. In fact, they make the most fouls in the country - 23.3 a game. UB ranks 15th in the country in free-throw attempts and ninth in the nation in free throws made.
5. Former Jamestown High School star Jaysean Paige is a backup guard for West Virginia. He led Jamestown to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class AA title game in 2011 and was The Buffalo News Player of the Year. A 6-2 guard, he averages 14 minutes and 6.1 points a game. He played at a junior college in Missouri before joining the Mountaineers.