Point guard showdown
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Despite all that Juwan Staten has accomplished this season, there is a compelling argument to be made that in the context of Big 12 point guards he's just this:
No, there aren't many players across the country who can say they rank as highly in their own leagues in such a variety of statistics as does Staten. He's first in minutes played and assist-to-turnover ratio, second in assists, fourth in field goal percentage, sixth in scoring, seventh in steals and defensive rebounds and, as a point guard, is even 16th in rebounding.
Consider this, though: Staten also plays in the same league with Marcus Smart, who is the gold standard where point guards are concerned across the country this season.
On Saturday afternoon, the two will play on the same floor for the first of at least two times this season. Smart and No. 11 Oklahoma State (13-2, 1-1 Big 12) visit the Coliseum for a 4 p.m. game against Staten and the Mountaineers (10-5, 2-0).
Oh, and it's not that Smart and Staten are alone among productive, game-changing point guards in the league this season. Don't forget Iowa State senior and Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane, who on Monday absolutely filled up a boxscore with 30 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and five steals in the Cyclones' 14th straight win, 87-72 over Baylor.
"I might be a little bit biased, but I think the Big 12 has the best collection of point guards,'' Staten said. "Every team has a really good point guard who can control the game and score and pass. Every game you have to come ready to play.''
That will certainly be the case for Staten and the Mountaineers Saturday when they face Smart and the Cowboys.
To define Smart's game with mere statistics is probably as unfair as to define Staten in the same manner. Still, the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder, who might well have been an NBA lottery pick had he come out after his freshman season, is first in the Big 12 in steals, fourth in scoring, seventh in assists, 10th in 3-pointers, 11th in overall field goal percentage and 3-point percentage and 12th in assist-to-turnover ratio.
In a Wednesday night win over Texas, Smart had the kind of stat line that defines him - 24 points, 11 rebounds, six steals, five assists, a blocked shot and no turnovers.
Games like that are the reason he's not likely to spend another year in the college game.
"He's coming in with the biggest name and the big reputation,'' Staten said of Smart. "I'm probably looking forward to going up against him the most.''
Whether the two actually spend much time face-to-face remains to be seen. After all, one guy doesn't generally guard Smart, and he has a big size advantage over the 6-1, 190-pound Staten.
"He's a matchup problem because he's so big for a guard,'' Staten said.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins compares Smart to Jason Kidd, which is not a bad guy with whom to be mentioned in the same sentence. Staten has been watching Smart for more than a year now, so he knows what he's up against.
"I've been watching film of him since I first heard who he was,'' Staten said. "He's a great player. I'm looking forward to it.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.