Texas Tech-West Virginia Preview (Feb 26, 2018)
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia's basketball program was in "fix-it" mode when Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles signed in November 2013.
Coach Bob Huggins, stinging from his first losing season in 27 years, wanted grittier players committed to digging in on defense. And thus "Press Virginia" was born the following year, with freshman guards providing the teeth.
Monday night will be the home finale for the two when the No. 20 Mountaineers (21-8, 10-6) host No. 12 Texas Tech at WVU Coliseum.
Carter hasn't missed a game in his college career, a string that will reach 137 on Senior Night. The All-American candidate ranks fourth in the nation in steals and soon will become the first four-time member of the Big 12 all-defensive team.
Miles is ninth on the school career steals list (167) and fifth in games started (116).
"They've had great careers," Huggins said. "Those two guys, to a large degree, are responsible for getting this back on track."
While West Virginia is approaching its fourth straight NCAA bid, Texas Tech (22-7, 10-6) has gone dancing just once in the past decade. Second-year coach Chris Beard hopes this year's success -- highlighted by the program's highest-ever AP ranking -- isn't some temporary flash.
Picked seventh in the Big 12 this season, the Red Raiders were primed to stop Kansas' unfathomable string of conference championships until a three-game losing streak.
After a 74-72 loss Saturday to the Jayhawks, amid the craziest game-day atmosphere Lubbock has ever witnessed, Beard lamented how close his team came to "sitting in here popping pinatas and having a party."
Now a second-place finish appears the best Texas Tech can manage, and even that depends on properly managing a 48-hour turnaround as it flies across country to face West Virginia.
"I know they're an aggressive team," Red Raiders freshman Zhaire Smith said. "We've got to be able to make the right plays -- smart plays."
Texas Tech won the first meeting 72-71 on Jan. 13, rallying from 11 points down in the final 13 minutes. Keenan Evans scored 20 points that day, going 8 of 9 at the foul line.
Winning the rematch will be difficult, though, with Evans hobbled by a foot injury. The senior guard has made just 3 of 19 shots from the floor during the past three losses, not coming close to his 17.2 points-per-game average.
Forward Justin Gray, the only Red Raiders player to start all 29 games, is questionable after being knocked out of the Kansas game by a hard screen.
"If there's an MVP on our team, it might be Justin," Beard said. "The guy has changed his game every year he's been in college. He's our ultimate glue guy. He's our best defender, our best rebounder per position, and he scores big baskets."