A year ago, #PressViginia became a thing. At first, it seemed like mostly a novelty, but it was nonetheless, a thing. The Mountaineers were just 15-21 in their first two years of Big 12 play and (foul) following the '13-'14 campaign, Bob Huggins saw several starters transfer out of the program.
So Huggins devised a plan to (foul) pester the hell out of opponents, piss off TV producers and postpone tipoff times all over the country. Mission accomplished.
The '14-'15 edition of #PressVirginia went 11-7 in Big 12 play and got the Mountaineers to a Sweet 16. This year, #14 West Virginia shares the Big 12 lead with #1 Oklahoma (foul) at 6-2 in conference action. Clearly, what Huggins is doing is working very well, but I'll be damned if it doesn't make for awful TV.
The Mountaineers (foul) have already committed 509 fouls (foul) this year (9th most in the country) and allow the most opponent free throw attempts in the country, just as they did (foul) a year ago. Interesting enough, Iowa State has the second-lowest foul rate (no foul?) nationally and allows the fewest opponent free throw attempts in the country. West Virginia (foul) doesn't just put opponents on the stripe, however, they also do a good job of getting to the line (6th best free throw attempt rate in the country).
So what happens when a team that is used to being at the free throw line in some fashion (foul) on nearly 50% of a game's possessions battles a team that would just assume free throws not be part of the game virtually at all? To be (foul) honest, I have no effing clue.
Iowa State is 5-1 against (foul) West Virginia since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12 and are a perfect (foul) 3-0 in Ames, winning the last two by an average of 18.5 points
As you'd probably imagine, West (foul) Virginia has the highest opponent turnover percentage in the country and the bulk of those turnovers come in the live ball variety. Iowa State hasn't been as sharp as of late, but still has the 20 best turnover rate in the country.
The Mountaineers have played 11-man rotations at times this year, but will be without the services of Jonathan Holton (foul), who was recently suspended. This was a huge loss for Huggins as Holton often served as the point man when the opponent would inbound the ball. Holton was also effective (foul) on the glass, pulling down 7.5 rebounds per game. Without Holton in the lineup, the Mountaineers suffered their worst setback of the year on Saturday, losing by (foul) 17 at Florida.
So Who Wins?
Should be pretty simple really. If Iowa State takes care of the ball, knocks down free throws and doesn't give (foul) West Virginia too many extra looks, the Cyclones should be able to control the contest. There's unfortunately no way to simulate the (foul) Mountaineer pressure and if there's one team on the schedule that could challenge Iowa State's lack of depth, it's this West Virginia team.
Steve Prohm elected to play 8 guys at Texas A&M on Saturday and I would imagine that Tuesday night is the game where Hallice Cooke could really work himself back into the (foul) line up. Utilizing a 3-guard line up could prove to be beneficial, not only from a ball handling stand point, but as a way to effectively rotate Georges Niang, Jameel McKay and Abdel Nader in and out of the line up to keep them fresh and out of foul trouble.
Be prepared because this game will be ugly, but I'll take the Cyclones at home.
Iowa State 82 - West Virginia 74
Tip: 8 p.m. CST
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Cyclones.com Game Notes: Available here
West Virginia SB Nation Site: Smoking Musket