Pick – Analysis
While Kansas looks headed to yet another Big 12 regular season title, West Virginia still sits without a Conference win. This isn’t the season Mountaineers fans expected after last year’s run to the Sweet 16 and it may not get much better with a trip to Tennessee next weekend. For now, WVU will try and get its first Conference win with back-to-back home Games. The problem is that it already lost at home to Texas Tech and OK State. It also doesn’t help that WVU was blown out by 31 points at TCU last Game.
It’s been mostly ho-hum for Kansas, sitting with the best Conference record yet again. The Jayhawks may not be blowing teams away, but they’re getting wins and that’s how it usually goes. There’s still reason to believe they could lose this Game considering they’ve lost two of three true road Games this season. The loss of Udoka Azubuike has forced them to go smaller and they’re still figuring out how to defend with a smaller lineup after giving up 78 points at home to an average Texas team.
The problem is that WVU’s defense has been bad and doesn’t force turnovers, which is weird for a Bob Huggins team. The other problem is that the offense has been equally bad, turning it over on almost 22 percent of possessions, while having the worst shooting numbers in the conference. This Game is at home for the Mountaineers, but if they want to win, something has to change.
So far, no one has stepped up with Sagaba Konate injured. Four guys are averaging double digits, but none of them are consistent with leading scorer Esa Ahmad (12.8 ppg) failing to surpass 10 points in his last Four Games. James Bolden has had some great Games and dropped 31 against OK State, but he also failed to Scoreat K State the Game before that. The addition of Derek Culver (12.0 ppg) into the lineup has helped and LAmont West has had some nice performances, but these guys rarely have good Games together. At the least, the Mountaineers will have a size advantage on the offensive end with Culver a few pounds heavier than Dedric LAwson and Ahmad and West both with height advantages. The question is if they can take advantage of that without anyone on the team that can shoot better than 38 percent from three.
Then there’s the issue on the other end where WVU has struggled almost every Game. Culver, who has played seven Games in his collegiate career, will likely be tasked with LAwson (19.2 ppg, 10.6 rpg), one of the best players in the country. Running around him are Four guys that will continually shoot and slice through the defense. Stopping point guard Devon Dotson (11.0 ppg) will be important, but given how this defense has looked, that won’t be easy. And while WVU has size, it may not have the speed to match Dotson, LAgerald Vick (15.2 ppg), Quentin Grimes and Marcus Garrett. That athleticism will be a problem for the Mountaineers and the same goes for LAwson down low, who isn’t a true center.
West Virginia has seemingly lost this matchup in the final minutes every year no matter how good each team is and if WVU plays like it has the last two Games, this could be an easy win for the road team. Of course, assuming that will happen isn’t smart as the Mountaineers will put everything into knocking off the annual Big 12 champs. The Jayhawks are the better team but if their defense struggles again with a smaller lineup, there’s a chance they don’t cover.
Our Pick – Kansas -6