It’s been said all season, but there are no free Games in the Big 12. There are still a couple weeks to go and anything can happen, especially Kansas grabbing a piece of the title again. Of course, the same can be said for West Virginia if it wins this Game. Anything can happen in the next two weeks and each team has to take it a Game at a time.
The Jayhawks have rarely dominated a Game this season and that’s the main reason to go with the road team. Kansas already has a few home losses this season and when it wins Games, it isn’t by much. The same can almost be said for the Mountaineers as they’ve been susceptible to losses both home and on the road. In their last two road Games, they beat Oklahoma, but also lost by 16 points to Iowa State before that.
It’s unlikely a repeat of last month’s meeting will happen. West Virginia led most of the way and had a 12-point lead with less than 10 minutes to go. And then, things fell apart. Kansas went on a huge run in the final five minutes and ended up stealing a win 71-66, going on a 20-6 run to close it. Neither team played great offensively and there’s a chance that happens again. West Virginia lost the Game by shooting 5-of-27 from distance and turning the ball over 16 times. Missed shots and turnovers is what let Kansas back in the Game.
The issue is that WVU is not a good shooting team in the first place and that’s been a problem in almost every loss. But the Mountaineers got out to a huge lead by limiting easy looks in the paint and that could also happen again with Sagaba Konate, one of the best blockers in the country, roaming in the paint. This has the makings of another up-and-down Game with the last five minutes counting the most. Due to WVU’s offensive inefficiency, it’s much easier to back Kansas.
Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk won that first meeting for the Jayhawks, but three other guys reached at least nine points and that’s how they closed the door. WVU let Graham and Mykhailiuk get too many open looks and then when they put more attention on them, they dished out 11 assists. As long as the Jayhawks can get past the press, they’ll continue to get open looks. It’s just about hitting shots, which Malik Newman and LAgerald Vick have struggled to do consistently all season.
On the other end, the biggest difference from that first Game may be that James Bolden is seeing more time in the lineup after just 12 minutes and zero points last meeting. He’s been averaging more than 25 minutes the last couple weeks and that helps because he’s WVU’s best shooter from deep at more than 44 percent. With Jevon Carter trying to shut down Graham for most of the Game, having another scorer and ball handler only helps what the Mountaineers do offensively. West Virginia also needs to get similar production from Konate and Esa Ahmad down low. Konate got numerous easy looks against Udoka Azubuike, while Ahmad has too much length and size for any of KU’s power forwards to deal with, namely Mykhailiuk.
The Mountaineers may be the better team overall, but with their lack of late-Game execution, it’s hard to take them on the road against a team that is almost always in a close Game and knows how to finish.
Our Pick – Kansas -3.5