'It's wild': WVU newcomers back up how tough life is playing in the Big 12

Feb. 22—MORGANTOWN — The idea that the Big 12 men's basketball conference is the most difficult to survive isn't exactly new.

It's likely Quinn Slazinski heard that argument when he was at Louisville. Jesse Edwards probably heard it while playing at Syracuse or RaeQuan Battle at Washington.

All three had played at Power Five schools prior to transferring to West Virginia this season, but had never experienced what Big 12 life is like.

"It's wild, " Slazinski begins.

Before Slazinski can finish that thought, Battle chirps in, "It's very aggressive."

The Mountaineers (9-17, 4-9 Big 12) have just five conference games remaining before the start of the league tournament.

WVU STATS Aside from No. 6 Iowa State (20-6, 9-4), which hosts WVU at 2 p.m. Saturday inside Hilton Coliseum, and Texas Tech, the Mountaineers have faced everyone in the Big 12 at least once.

WVU has done so with a roster of four starters and two key reserves who had never played in the Big 12 before.

They were quick to back up the difficulties of playing in the league.

"Every time I turn a Big 12 game on, it's No. 10 vs. No. 12 (in the national rankings), No. 4 vs. No. 6, " Slazinski said.

This is where Edwards comes into the conversation. The WVU center had just played four years in the ACC with the likes of Duke and North Carolina.

Still, the Big 12 impresses him greatly.

"Yeah, that's the main thing, I think, " Edwards begins. "It's the amount of good teams in this league, it's crazy. It's a lot."

There are essentially no nights off, especially for a team like the Mountaineers, who are in a three-way tie for last place (along with Oklahoma State and UCF) in the conference and looking up at everyone else.

The players are asked what sets the Big 12 apart in men's hoops. Is it the physical style of play ?

"The Pac-12 is not this physical, I can tell you that, " said Battle, who played in the Pac-12 for two seasons at Washington.

"For sure, it's more physical than the Pac-12, " Slazinski adds.

Edwards, who led the ACC in blocked shots and was second in rebounds last season, kept coming back to the totality of the 14 Big 12 teams.

In his words, sure, there are a handful of teams within the ACC who would match up and thrive in the Big 12, but certainly not all 15 teams in that conference.

"The better teams in the ACC are also very physical, " Edwards said. "It's the amount of good teams in the Big 12. Week after week, you're playing some of the best teams in the country. It's a lot of fun, but it's hard. It's a hard league."

Another aspect came from Slazinski, who also played two seasons in the ACC at Louisville, before transferring to Iona, where he played for Rick Pitino.

While Big 12 teams bring a certain level of physicality, those teams also offer a lot of variety.

BYU is third in the nation in made 3-pointers. TCU leads the nation in fast-break points.

Iowa State and Houston both force a ton of turnovers, while UCF tries to bully opponents and win a physical battle.

"There are so many things you have to be ready for every night, " Slazinski said. "You're going to go play a BYU team that shoots the crap out of the three and then you may go play at TCU that just pounds it down low and then picks up full court.

"I think in the ACC, a lot of the teams are kind of similar. In the Pac-12, a lot of the teams play the same way. The Big 12 is like every single type of basketball into one. You're playing a completely different identity pretty much every single game."

Having been through a bulk of the Big 12 season now, the players are asked if they would have changed their minds about transferring to WVU if they knew then what they know now.

"We're so happy to be here, " Slazinski said. "The situation we're in with our record and where we are, you can obviously say what you want, but I think everyone here and in the locker room are happy we chose to come here."

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