West Virginia (6-0) returns to action Sunday afternoon as they take on the Rhode Island Rams. The Rams come into the matchup with a 6-2 record, losing to only LSU and Maryland on the season. West Virginia comes into this game riding high off their win over Wichita State to win the Cancun Challenge Championship.
Where and when: WVU Coliseum 2:00 p.m. ET
Matchup to watch: Can the West Virginia defense slow down the Rhode Island offense? In six of their eight games this season, the Rams have scored 70 or more points. One of the games they didn’t was in an extremely tough matchup with the number five team in the country, the University of Maryland. As a team, they are averaging 73 points a game to go with hauling in 39 rebounds. On West Virginia’s side, they have excelled defensively to start the season. The Mountaineers have not allowed more than 63 points since their season opener against Akron. If the Rams want to win this game, they need it to be high scoring. If West Virginia can keep up their stellar defense and hold Rhode Island under 70, they have a great shot at keeping their undefeated season going.
Picks to click: Rhode Island: Fatts Russell West Virginia: Sean McNeil
If Rhode Island is going to win this game, it’s going to come behind an outstanding scoring effort from Fatts Russell. The junior guard has been remarkable to start the season, averaging 19.6 points per game while shooting 45% from the field. In every game Rhode Island has won this season, Russell has put up 18 or more points. The one game he was shut down, against Maryland, the Rams’ offense was held to just 55 points. It is a tall task, but slow down Russell and you win the game. Let him get into a groove, and it may be a long afternoon.
I think the Mountaineers are going to have to score over 70 points to win this game. If they want to do that for just the third time this season, they need to hit some threes. That is where Sean McNeil comes into play. The sophomore guard is by far the best shooter on the Mountaineers’ roster, hitting seven threes in their first six games. To keep up with Russell’s offensive ability, West Virginia will need a player of their own to get hot. McNeil will be that guy and hit some big threes down the stretch in this game.
Game Prediction: Rhode Island 71 West Virginia 79
Coming off a long tournament, I think West Virginia will be a bit sluggish to start this game. Fatts Russell will lead the Rams to a lead at halftime, but just like they did last Wednesday, the Mountaineers will erase the deficit in the second half, ultimately moving to 7-0 on the season.