MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Welcome back to the Cancun Challenge, where the West Virginia men’s team faces its final preliminary game before heading off to the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya in Cancun next week to go up against Northern Iowa and then either Wichita State or South Carolina.
On tap tonight is Boston University (3-2), which is coming off a 78-70 upset of South Carolina in Columbia, S.C., in what was a preliminary game for the Gamecocks that ended up not being a textbook afterthought before traveling to Mexico.
What does that mean for the Mountaineers (3-0) tonight? Well, a few things actually, which we’ll discuss in a moment. For now, we begin with an obvious question we posed to WVU head coach Bob Huggins, who is great friends with South Carolina coach Frank Martin and the two once coached together at Kansas State.
Hey coach, did you get any advice from Frank on how to play Boston University? “I haven’t talked to Frank,” Huggins replied. “I’d rather talk to Frank when he’s in a good mood.”
As for the other stories, WVU junior forward Gabe Osabuohien was declared eligible by the NCAA and is likely to make his debut against Boston and WVU forward Oscar Tshiebwe will be allowed to travel and play in Mexico with his teammates, Huggins confirmed. Tshiebwe, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, was left back in Morgantown this summer when the team traveled to Spain for an exhibition tour, because of student visa/passport issues, which have now been fixed.
For now, here’s what you need to know:
TV: Nexstar/WBOY for the 7 p.m. game. This is more complicated than usual. Simply put, WBOY, an NBC affiliate, is not part of Morgantown’s package with Comcast. If you live in Preston County, Marion County or Harrison County, you will likely have WBOY as part of your basic cable package. If you have DirecTV or DISH Network in the Morgantown area, you will find the game on channel 12 in your package. And just so you know, this will be the same deal when WVU hosts Austin Peay on Dec. 12, because that is a Nexstar game, too. For those in Morgantown who do not have satellite TV, there is a free online stream available at WVUsports.com. As for why the game is on Nexstar, it’s all part of WVU’s Tier 3 rights package. AT&T SportsNet out of Pittsburgh has the first rights to the Tier 3 games, but it is broadcasting the Penguins tonight at the same time, which moves the game to Nexstar. It’s the same reason why the Austin Peay game is on Nexstar, too.
BETTING LINE: WVU is a 15 1/2-point favorite.
DID BOSTON REALLY GO TO COLUMBIA AND BEAT SOUTH CAROLINA?
Yep and did it with a convincing second half of making shots, which led to dribble drives and backdoor cuts. But don’t take it from me. NBA Hall-of-Famer Alex English, now of the SEC Network, breaks it all down here:
THREE GOOD QUESTIONS
WHAT IMPACT WILL OSABUOHIEN HAVE ON WVU? Most of it will be on the defensive side. He’ll be another solid rebounder. He has the ability to guard smaller and faster guys, which is not exactly the case with Derek Culver, Oscar Tshiebwe and Logan Routt. He’ll deflect passes and is really good at tacking charges. Huggins said Osabuohien is also good at putting the ball on the floor and driving to the basket. Most of his impact will be on hustle plays, which never go out of style.
CAN THE TERRIERS PULL OFF ANOTHER UPSET? It’s important to note that Frank Martin has the same basic coaching philosophies as Huggins, in that he preaches tough and physical man-to-man defense and wants to dominate teams on the glass. Boston handled all of that well in the second half by shooting 13 of 27 in that half and it mixed in some timely 3-pointers, as well as driving into the lane and either kicking it out to an open shooter, hitting a teammate for a backdoor cut or drawing a foul. Boston, out of the Patriot League, has a trio of shooters led by 6-6 sophomore guard Walter Whyte, who is 13 of 33 from 3-point range, but is also a good rebounder for his size. Point guard Javante McCoy led the Terriers with 17 points, but also had seven rebounds and five assists against South Carolina. If Boston is able to make some shots and begin to spread out the Mountaineers’ defense, then yes, the Terriers have a good chance in this game.
HOW DID TSHIEBWE GET CLEARED TO TRAVEL TO MEXICO? Details are sketchy at best at the moment and I hope to find out more tonight. From what I understand, Tshiebwe is in the U.S. on a student visa, which did not allow him to travel to Spain and then return to the U.S. I believe he has now been issued an official passport. The process of getting the passport is where it all gets fuzzy, so we’ll ask for something more official tonight.
The 15 1/2 points is the same spread WVU was favored by against Northern Colorado, which wasn’t covered. Long story short from the gambling world, the point spreads that are in the 13-16 point range are generally the ones to stay away from, because they are the most unpredictable. Traditionally speaking, teams favored by 19 or 20 points cover more than ones favored by 15. I got burned by predicting WVU would cover against Northern Colorado and will not make the same mistake twice. WVU wins, but will not cover the point spread, 83-72
JUSTIN’S SEASON PREDICTIONS AGAINST THE SPREAD: 2-1.