No. 6 West Virginia and No. 17 Oklahoma State will be face-to-face on Saturday as the two teams jockey for position in the standings of the gauntlet Big 12 Conference. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
This contest has major implications for the Big 12 Tournament, as yet neither team is set in its seeding. West Virginia (18-7, 11-5 Big 12) will seal its 2-seed if it is victorious — but if it loses, they could fall as many as two spots depending on what happens elsewhere in the league.
Oklahoma State (17-7, 10-7 Big 12) hopes to improve its seeding as well with a win, however it needs outside help — and if the Cowboys lose, that same help could come to hurt them. As the current 5-seed, they could move move up to four, fall to six or stay right where they are — again, depending on external factors.
The Cowboys hit a stride in the latter part of the season, going 7-2 over a 30-day period before falling Thursday at Baylor. Star freshman guard Cade Cunningham willed Oklahoma State to many of these wins, at one point scoring 40 points in an overtime win at Oklahoma. A19.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, Cunningham has become a strong pick for Big 12 Player of the Year and Naismith Player of the Year.
There’s just one issue — his status is currently unknown for Saturday’s tip-off after he suffered a sprained ankle and is listed as questionable.
While WVU has much to think about regarding its postseason prospects, history is on the line in this contest. Bob Huggins, currently at 899 wins, has the chance to join an exclusive list of college basketball coaches with 900 career wins if his team pulls off the victory against the Cowboys.
Luckily for the coach, the historical weight of Saturday’s clash is not lost on his players.
“You can’t really just brush that off, like that’s just something that’s small. 900 of anything is a lot, especially when you’re talking about basketball games,” said junior forward Derek Culver after his team’s win on Thursday. “I feel like it’ll be pretty special that I get to be there with Coach and get to experience his 900th win.”
Culver will be a key piece to the Mountaineer game plan on Saturday. Oklahoma State had no answer for him in the first meeting — he went off for a team-high 22 points and a game-high 19 rebounds as the Mountaineers came back from a 19-point deficit in the second half.
Culver is close to history himself — at 992 career points, Culver is just eight away from hitting 1,000.
To supplement the big man, WVU will also look to get its shooters involved — an aspect of the game with which the Mountaineers have excelled. They have plenty of guards that can make shots, and different players seem to carry the standard each night — whether it be Taz Sherman, Sean McNeil or freshman Jalen Bridges, who had a career night against TCU with 22 points and 12 rebounds.
“When we went through our roster transformation…everyone kind of counted us out,” Bridges said. “We took that as, let’s show everybody that we can be better than what people are saying we’re going to be. We’re still that West Virginia team that everybody was talking about had Final Four potential, no matter who is here or who is where. We just took that to heart and we come out every game and just win by any means necessary.”
Tip-off between West Virginia and Oklahoma State tips off at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN2.