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West Virginia

College Basketball Pick


One week ago, this was looking like Kansas's first lost of the conference season, but now, not so much. West Virginia, once a top-10 team, has lost back-to-back games against unranked teams, the first coming against Oklahoma, which has a losing record. The Jayhawks haven't looked unstoppable, but in usual fashion, have dealt with anything thrown at them leading to a 7-0 Big 12 record.

Kansas was challenged at TCU and against Kansas State early on, but prevailed in both. Last week they traveled to Iowa State and led for most of the way, a place the Jayhawks had lost in the last two trips. While West Virginia has looked great in home wins over teams like TCU and Baylor, the loss in Morgantown to the Sooners is a bit worrisome.

Teams are figuring out that if you can beat WVU's press, then they aren't all that good. The Mountaineers lack a true presence in the paint and that's been a problem the last couple games as both opponents had an obvious strategy of attacking down low. Despite averaging almost 85 points between the two, Oklahoma and K State combined for just 10 made threes in their wins. It's obvious that teams are taking advantage of the likes of Nathan Adrian and Esa Ahmad as WVU's top big men.

The question will be if Kansas can capitalize on that through either Landen Lucas or Carlton Bragg, neither of whom are known for offensive games. Kansas lost this game last year because of 22 turnovers, despite having mostly the same solid backcourt. If the Jayhawks turn it over that many times again, they'll likely come out on the losing side, there's no way around it. So while Lucas and Bragg may play bigger roles, this still depends largely on one of the best backcourts in the country with the trio of Frank Mason, Devonte Graham and Josh Jackson.

Mason and Graham provide the experience, but Mason still turns it over more than two times per game and Jackson has turned it over 10 times in the last two games. The Mountaineers beat teams by forcing turnovers with those leading to easy buckets. If that doesn't work, trouble usually ensues.

West Virginia has a solid backcourt as well, but nowhere near as lethal as Kansas's. Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles and Tarik Phillip can all score and go off in any game, but those three have simply not been enough against better teams. To find some kind of edge against the Jayhawks, WVU will need Adrian to repeat his 22-point performance he had against Baylor or Ahmad to score more than the 21 points he's scored in the last four games.

There isn't much of a size discrepancy in this game, which means this one should move up-and-down with plenty of points expected. West Virginia is on a bit of a cold run, but if they can get up for this game similar to that Baylor beat down, this could lead to another win over the Jayhawks. However, given the above info, if home-court advantage isn't enough, then the KU backcourt could win this game by itself.

Our Pick - Kansas 86 WVA 84

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