Game at a Glance
Ohio State and WVU are both ranked teams. At one loss a piece, both teams have defeated a plethora of quality opponents. According to the Rating Percentage Index, both teams are among the top ten in toughest schedules, with WVU possessing the most difficult in the country.
Ohio State is a tough defensive team that runs an efficient offense through their star big man, Kaleb Wesson. He is used heavily in post-ups and pick and rolls. Duane Washington Jr. is one of the better guards on the squad as he shoots an impressive 50% from three. DJ Carton also contributes well off the bench with consistent scoring.
As most fans are aware, WVU coach Bob Huggins regularly plays the entire bench. For example, twelve players saw the floor in the quality win over Northern Iowa. Ten of those twelve had ten or minutes. The depth of WVU against the star play from Wesson will make for a good match up.
Buckeyes Rebounding Advantage
Among Ohio State’s best wins, they destroyed the opponent on the glass. Against #20 Penn State, the Buckeyes recorded 37 rebounds to the Nittany Lion’s 25. When matched up against #19 Kentucky, Ohio State out-rebounded 33-25. In the blowout win over #7 North Carolina, Ohio State dominated the boards 48-32. In Ohio State’s single loss of the year, Minnesota had 40 rebounds compared to their 28. Ohio State is an impressive basketball team in many aspects but it can not be ignored that their rebounding advantage has contributed significantly to their success on both ends of the floor.
With that being said, WVU has consistently rebounded the ball well all season. In the country, the Mountaineers are 16th in rebounding margin, 7th in total rebounds per game, and 5th in offensive rebounds per game. Culver and Tshiebwe are both nearly averaging double-doubles in points and rebounds. This could be a good sign for the Mountaineers as they have the front-court to defend and rebound against Kaleb Wesson and the rest of the Buckeyes.
This matchup will conclude with an estimated score of 67-62. The margin will likely finish within eight points and the combined total will not exceed 130-135 points. The winner could be either team as they both have good coaches and possess unique strengths. This game is a true “toss up.”
The game could certainly come down to how well WVU can defend the ball. Ohio State averages nearly eighty points per game on 49% shooting from the field. It should be expected that WVU drop a double team on Wesson throughout the game. The Mountaineers have a very tall starting five and Coach Huggins may incorporate different defenses throughout the game. In an attempt to counter Wesson, WVU may seek to run a variety of zones and man to man pressure to keep him uncomfortable.
The game could likely start out in Ohio State’s favor. However, as the game progresses, it is likely that WVU’s depth will wear Ohio State down. If Culver and Tshiebwe can stay out of foul trouble, and WVU’s guards can shoot the ball efficiently, the Mountaineers will have a really good chance at knocking off one of the best teams in the country.
After Sunday’s matchup with Ohio State, the Mountaineers will have a week long break before beginning Big 12 play. The Mountaineers will open the Big 12 schedule with Kansas on January 4th. For a team with limited expectations coming off last season, it is becoming more likely that WVU will finish among the best in the Big 12. Before jumping ahead to Big 12 play, WVU has the biggest test of the season against Ohio State on Sunday.
Start time is 12:00 PM (EST) on 12/29.
Follow me on Twitter at @elyOsborne10 for all of my articles and updates on West Virginia Basketball.
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