The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks haven't lost a game since 2015 and the country is about to witness the two top defensive teams in the nation feud in the March Madness season.
The Lumberjacks are No. 1 in the nation in defensive turnovers while West Virginia trails right behind them as No. 2. SFA is set for a game with mirrored coaching and styles of play.
SFA presses and so does West Virginia. It's no surprise that the head coaches for their respective schools have similar philosophies as Brad Underwood worked for Bob Huggins one year at Kansas State.
“It's a team we have to play very well against and we have to match their effort. I know what they do every single day in practice and it's very similar to what we do,” said Underwood.
The 'Jacks lead the country in forced turnovers with an 18.63 average per game to the Mountaineers No. 2 average at 18.15.
West Virginia leads the nation in steals per game with 9.9 to SFA's 9.1. The Mountaineers press isn't anything SFA hasn't seen or had success with in this tournament either.
“We experienced that two years ago with VCU and there's some comfort with it,” said Underwood. “It's a little chaotic the way they play. It's with tremendous effort. It's not the way they press, it's how hard they play in their press and they do it for 40 minutes with their depth.”
“I feel like it's kind of similar to the VCU matchup we had our first year that we won. I feel like we got a good draw,” said senior guard Trey Pinkney. “Facing each other in practice pretty much is what it's going to be like. It's going to be a hostile environment.”
West Virginia also has the second best offensive rebounding percentage in the country which is something SFA is honing in on in their preparation.
“Definitely rebounding is number 1 but we face pressure all the time in practice,” said senior forward Thomas Walkup. “I think that's something we'll have to be ready for and something we'll work on during this week. We'll be ready to keep the game at a mellow pace.”
In trips before, depth has been an issue for SFA in the NCAA Tournament. However this year more players have stepped up offensively as weapons and the 'Jacks aren't afraid to move the ball around as they're second in the country in assists with over 20 per game.
“We got more guys that can step up and make shots other than the two or three guys like last year,” said sophomore guard Ty Charles.
“We got six guys leading us in scoring. I think we're a team that has one of the top assists teams in the country. We pass the ball well. We have to do all those things,” said Underwood.
The Lumberjacks are leaving Wednesday morning for their game in Brooklyn, New York. SFA will play West Virginia in the Barclay's Center, Friday at 6 p.m.
Copyright 2016 KTRE. All rights reserved.