No. 8 Kansas Looks To Avoid West Virginia Upset
Tip-off at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan., is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. ET.
There’s a whiff of mismatch about this game, on paper at least, but the way the Big 12 conference is playing out this season, it might not be the biggest surprise to see the Mountaineers leave with their hands raised on Saturday.
With five teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25, the Big 12 is a tough place to play. But it’s not only the ranked sides you have to watch out for. Just ask No. 21 Oklahoma.
The Sooners were upended by West Virginia (14-9, 6-4 Big 12) Wednesday night in a tight game that went to overtime. The Mountaineers may have had the benefit of home court advantage, and an additional advantage due to Oklahoma’s travel troubles, but at the end of the day, in college basketball you have to win, whatever the circumstances.
The 91-86 win marked the Mountaineers’ first notable victory of the season, and should have put the eighth-ranked Jayhawks on notice.
Any woes Kansas (17-5, 8-1 Big 12) might have faced early on in the season seem to have been washed away as the team has posted a Big 12-best 9-1 record.
That one loss came last weekend on the road to Texas, a team that is arguably the biggest threat to the Jayhawks winning a 10th straight division title.
Kansas saw both Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid struggle in that game, combining for just 15 points. The pair also struggled on Tuesday at Baylor, but the Jayhawks found a way to win on that night. Both will look to have a big night against the Mountaineers.
While Kansas will look to improve its offense, it’s defense that could be the key to this one.
West Virginia comes into the game having won three straight and four of five. Much of their success has been a result of excellent play from Juwan Staten and Eron Harris.
Staten is second in the Big 12 with 18.1 points per game and first with 6-0 assists. Harris is third in the conference in scoring with 17.5 points per contest. Kansas will need to stop both if they’re to run out winners in this one.
Kansas will also have to fend off some off-court distractions too. With many expecting Embiid to go No. 1 in the 2014 NBA Draft later this year, the attention he has been getting from pro scouts has sideswiped the team to a degree.
This week it was suggested that the 7-foot freshman was considering staying with Kansas next season. Cue gasps from NBA front office staff who are seemingly watching all the top picks talking about returning to school.
The whole ordeal is one Jayhawks’ coach Bill Self would rather forget about.
But with a rabble of NBA scouts likely to be at the game to see Embiid and Wiggins, an impression will be made on Saturday.
With Allen Fieldhouse generally considered a fortress against visiting team, Kansas unsurprisingly opened as the favorite heading into this one. But can West Virginia score an upset.
The two schools have met on the hardwood just twice in their history, both times coming last season as the Mountaineers made the jump to the Big 12. The Jayhawks won both meetings.
The January 28, 2013 meeting in Morgantown saw the Hawks blow a big lead before holding on for a 5-point win. The March 2, 2013, game in Lawrence saw the Mountaineers blown out to the tune of 91-65.
The spread opened at 13.5 and has climbed to 14 with some sportsbooks.
Both Kansas (12-10-0 ATS) and West Virginia (11-9-0 ATS) are just in the black when it comes to covering the spread this season. Neither has been entirely convincing though, which is partly down to the competitive nature of the Big 12.
The two sides each covered the spread once in last season’s doubleheader, both covering on home court.
At time of publication, no over/under has been released. If that changes before tip-off, the over could be the sensible bet.
Both West Virginia (11-8-0) and Kansas (13-8-1) have favored the over this season. The total has gone over in five of Kansas’ last six and four of West Virginia’s last five. Last year’s meeting between the two at Allen Fieldhouse saw the total go over too.
West Virginia and Kansas will meet once more this regular season, on the last day of the season at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown.
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