Over the last two weeks in college and professional sports, there has been no shortage of postponements and players unable to play due to COVID-19 protocols. Now, as West Virginia begins conference play, they will face No. 17 Texas without a full roster.
As the Mountaineers (11-1) came back from Christmas break, head coach Bob Huggins said they have a couple of guys in protocols and therefore will be undermanned for the Texas game.
“We have a couple that will be under the COVID protocols,” Huggins said Friday.
Huggins added who is out makes a big difference in how different the team may perform, but he also said the current guys who are available to play have been practicing well and he believes are ready.
“Obviously who makes a big difference. But we’ve been practicing and I think our guys are ready, We’ve had plenty of time to prepare.”
As for Texas (10-2), the Longhorns open conference play with two losses to No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 23 Seton Hall, with both losses coming on the road. The Longhorns are led by former Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard, who is in his first season at Texas. Beard and the Longhorns have four players who average nine or more points per game, and three of them average at least 10.3 points per game.
What is different about Texas’ leading scorers compared to West Virginia’s is their Big 12 experience. This offseason, Beard and his staff made great use of the transfer portal and so far it has paid off. The top three scorers from Texas are all transfers, and four of the top six scorers for Texas are transfers.
Huggins said Beard had always been good at getting transfers, saying this year’s transfer class of his, he did a really good job at getting them to come to Texas.
“Chris did a great job, but Chris has been doing it for a while,” Huggins said. “He’s been a big guy about taking transfers for quite a while.”
Huggins said no matter how talented the transfers are, it comes down to his team’s willingness to play good defense.
“You got to guard your man don’t you,” Huggins said. “I mean, yes they have a bunch of guys who were the leading scorer where they were and probably for the most part the leading scorer for whatever league they’re in. Obviously they’re very talented, but we’ve got to do our job. We’ve got to sit down, try to stay in front of them as best as we possibly can and limit their number of shots.
On the flip side, West Virginia has a few transfers who have made an impact of their own for the Mountaineers. Although they are not scoring the ball the same amount as Texas’ transfers, they are being used in other ways and Huggins recognizes that.
“We probably got on it (the transfer portal) a little bit late, but I think the guys that we brought in have been really productive for us,” Huggins said.
Last season West Virginia and Texas split the season series, with West Virginia winning on the road. A big part of that win on the road was guard Sean McNeil. McNeil scored 16 points, all in the second half, fueling West Virginia to a 19-point comeback victory.
West Virginia and Texas will tipoff at 12 p.m. ET on New Years Day at the Erwin Center in Austin, Texas, and the game will be televised on ESPNU.
Photo by Dale Sparks, All Pro Photography