There will be plenty of nervous energy in the air when eighth-seeded West Virginia faces ninth-seeded Texas Tech in the opening round of the Big 12 tournament Wednesday night in Kansas City, Mo.
Both teams could be playing for their NCAA Tournament lives, and Texas Tech is concerned about more than just a postseason berth. Head coach Mark Adams has been suspended indefinitely for comments that the university deemed “racially insensitive.”
Adams was encouraging a player to be more receptive to coaching and referenced a Bible verse about slaves serving their masters. Adams apologized to the team after he found out the player was upset about the reference.
Corey Williams was named Texas Tech’s interim head coach for the Big 12 tournament.
West Virginia (18-13, 7-11 Big 12) appears to be in the better position between the two clubs, but the Mountaineers won’t want to miss an opportunity to remove any doubt. Texas Tech (16-15, 5-13) has little wiggle room, and a deep run in the Big 12 tournament would help the Red Raiders’ chances.
A loss to West Virginia would all but eliminate Texas Tech. The winner of this game will face top-seeded Kansas on Thursday.
West Virginia has won three of its last four games, with the lone loss a two-point setback at No. 3 Kansas. Their last two wins came at Iowa State and at home against Kansas State.
That left head coach Bob Huggins feeling pretty confident.
“We’re not done yet,” Huggins said after the K-State game while wearing a cap with the words “NCAA bound” written on the side. “We’re looking forward to going to Kansas City, winning games in Kansas City, and then seeing who and where we’re going to play in the NCAA Tournament.”
West Virginia’s three seniors — Erik Stevenson, Emmitt Matthews, Jr. and Kedrian Johnson — combined for 70 points in an 89-81 victory over Kansas State on Senior Day. Stevenson led all scorers with 27 points. He scored 31, 34, 27 and 27 points in four of his last six home games.
“I don’t know if I can put that into words,” Stevenson said when asked about the crowd’s reaction when he hits a big 3-pointer. “But I can tell you the basket gets bigger and bigger every time I make one.”
Texas Tech was on a four-game winning streak before losing its past three games, including a 71-68 regular-season finale to Oklahoma State last Saturday in Lubbock. Tech and WVU split their regular-season matchups with the road teams winning each time.
The Red Raiders have five players in double figures in scoring. Senior Kevin Obanor leads the team with 14.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. De’Vion Harmon averages 13.6 points per game, Fardaws Aimaq added 11.8 in 10 games since returning from a foot injury, Pop Isaacs is at 11.3 and Jaylon Tyson is at 10.9.
“I don’t regret coming back, even the way this season went,” Obanor said, per the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “Those losses, it builds endurance and makes a person resilient. There’s still hope for that.”
–Field Level Media