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West Virginia


Kansas State

College Basketball Pick


West Virginia was a great home team before Wednesday night, but after getting beat my Oklahoma, maybe the Mountaineers aren't as good as originally thought. At the least, playing on the road, the Mountaineers are just a good team that can be beat. Kansas State will hope that's the case when the two meet in Manhattan this weekend. The Wildcats are in need of a win over a top team and this can be just that.

West Virginia already lost at Texas Tech in overtime a couple weeks ago and had trouble disposing of Texas last time on the road. When on their game, the Mountaineers can beat the best teams in the country, but when they don't force turnovers (eg. Oklahoma loss), this isn't an elite team. Kansas State's goal will be to limit its turnovers and hope its home crowd can be enough. The Wildcats still don't have that great win on the slate, coming close at Kansas and falling to Baylor most recently. To make the NCAA tournament, this is the type of game they need to win.

The obvious question is if they can hold onto the ball. Kansas State doesn't turn it over much and is mediocre compared to the rest of the Big 12 in turnover percentage. One thing going for them is that they have multiple guys that can handle the ball with Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes at guard, but also senior Wesley Iwundu. When these teams met last year in Manhattan, KSU was ready for the pressure, but eventually lost in double overtime as Iwundu turned the ball over seven times. It wasn't much better in the second meeting in Morgantown as Iwundu, Brown and Stokes combined for 13 turnovers. With that experience and another year under their belt, Bruce Weber is hoping that will be enough to calm his team's nerves.

The difference with this year's WVU team is that they don't have the low-post guys that can dominate the paint like Devin Williams and Jonathan Holton did a year ago. Instead, Esa Ahmad and Nathan Adrian are their two bigs, and while both have performed well this season (Ahmad leads team in scoring with 12.1 ppg), they don't provide a huge advantage. And that could be an area Kansas State focuses on with D.J. Johnson (12.0 ppg, 6.3 reb) and Dean Wade (10.3 ppg, 5.2 reb). While Wade doesn't give much in the paint, that's exactly what Johnson's game is and the Wildcats will likely feed him the ball early.

Other than that, Kansas State matches up fairly well in this game, as long as they can hold onto the ball. If those turnovers start to come, then the Mountaineers have the edge, which has happened for most of the season for them. If not, Daxter Miles, Jevon Carter and Tarik Phillip are all guards that can create for themselves and go off any night. Another problem for KSU is that they have the worst three-point defense in the Big 12. If that shows up in this game, that could be trouble.

But playing at home, Kansas State will have a couple ways to attack this WVU defense, starting with Johnson as well as Iwundu. Iwundu's ability to create for himself, combined with his size, could be troublesome for West Virginia's smaller lineup. That's the route for the Wildcats, but it starts with not turning the ball over against the Mountaineers.

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