Fantasy College Basketball Game of the Week: Texas at West Virginia
The plan was to get up early on Sunday and watch the epic Big 10 battle between Indiana and Michigan with both team allegedly rated in the top three by the people who make such ratings. The plan failed. I did get up early on Sunday (I've lost the ability to sleep in) and was all ready to watch some early morning hoops (family sleeping, sound off - just me communing with the TV). However, the cable was acting a bit funky and when I started up the game, the picture was very dark. I fast forwarded a bit to see if it was just a problem with the early part of the game. It wasn't. I already knew that the Hoosiers had won, but I was disappointed. Not too disappointed to go back to bed for a few minutes. So I had to scratch plan A and I moved to plan B: otherwise known as Big Monday on ESPN.
My choices were Notre Dame against Syracuse and Texas against West Virginia. Because I wrote about the Fighting Irish in the first Fantasy College Basketball Game of the Week column when they were beaten by St. Joseph's, I went with the battle from the Big 12. By the way, how long does it takes for a person to get used to a school being in a new conference? Two or three years? I still think of Nebraska in the Big 12. In any case, it is odd to see West Virginia in the Big 12, but the good news is that the teams were very well matched.
Unless something drastic changes for both teams, they will miss the NCAA tournament for the first time in a long time. The Mountaineers have not missed a tournament since 2007 and the Longhorns have been playing well into March every year since 1998. Each team has an excuse they could rely on. Texas has not had point guard Myck Kabongo because he was suspended by the NCAA for taking a plane ticket and lying about it. He will be eligible in a couple of weeks. West Virginia has the conference change.
I thought the Mountaineers would be a tournament team with the combination of Aaric Murray and Deniz Kilicli, but things have not gelled for West Virginia at all. Murray has been one of the bigger busts in the nation. I really thought the transfer from La Salle would step into Kevin Jones' slot and produce close to 15 points and eight boards. It wasn't at all surprising that the 6-10 junior had issues with coach Bob Huggins, but I thought he would produce anyway. Murray has been coming off the bench since Jan. 9 and has had some productive games. Monday night was not one of those games. He had a free throw in the closing seconds for his only point of the game and hauled in eight boards. Maybe he'll come into his own as a senior if he can get with the Huggins system.
It was good to see that Kilicli had his beard back. He looked weird without it. Like other Turkish players that I've watched - Zaza Pachulia and Ersan Ilyasova - the senior began his basketball career looking like he had not spent much time playing the game. He ran at a different speed than the rest of his team. He has progressed somewhat, but I still think he travels on most of his possessions. Kilicli was in Huggins' doghouse as well in the middle of the season and has been plagued by fouls of late. I don't think he'll follow Zaza and Ersan into the NBA. The other Mountaineer of note was Jabarie Hinds, who had a pair of beautiful crossover moves. He also had to leave the game briefly in the second half with cramps.
It appears the long run of stars in the Lone Star state has come to a temporary end. Texas has supplied the NBA with players like Dexter Pittman, Tristan Thompson, and Jordan Hamilton over the last three seasons. What's rather sad about Texas is that they could really use J'Covan Brown, a ballhog who took over the offense last year. Brown left for the NBA, but wasn't drafted and did not make the Heat as a free agent. I thought either Sheldon McClelland or Julien Lewis would slide right into the scorer's role (much like Murray for West Virginia). McClellan is averaging 14.8 points, but he can not take over a game like Brown could. The Longhorns had a pair of offensive droughts and the rims seemed loose in Morgantown. The team could certainly use Kabongo, but freshman Javan Felix has not been terrible. The parts just don't seem to fit together. The team does have two massive bigs in freshmen Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh. Ibeh was hurt in the game, so maybe Ridley gets more playing time in the near future. Kabongo will be too little, too late and maybe Texas will be NIT-bound next month.