College Basketball Game of the Week: Kansas vs. West Virginia
This Wednesday, Feb. 12, the No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks travel to Morgantown to take on No. 14 West Virginia. This is a marquee Big 12 matchup that has a lot of implications in seeding for both the conference tournament and the NCAA Tournament. Currently, the Jayhawks sit at 9-1 in conference, second in the Big 12 standings at a game-and-a-half behind Baylor. The Mountaineers have struggled a bit more in conference play, sitting in fourth place with a 6-4 Big 12 record. Both teams need a huge win to keep up in this competitive conference, so let’s check out what each team needs to do to win this game.
The Jayhawks are a force to be reckoned with. They rank first in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin and boast the highest-rated defensive efficiency as well. Breakout sophomore superstar Devon Dotson is going to be huge for the Jayhawks in this game, just as he has all season.
Though Kansas has the top overall defense, West Virginia’s is nothing to sneeze at either. The Jayhawks are going to have to find a way to score in order to win this huge game.
To do so, Kansas is going to need some major help from center Udoka Azubuike. In Kansas’ last matchup against the Mountaineers, Azubuike led the team with 17 points while also grabbing an impressive 11 rebounds. You can be sure that the ball will be in his hands for much of Wednesday’s bout.
The Mountaineers raced off to an 11-1 start and looked like they could really do some damage with their only loss coming at St. John’s. Since that start, the Mountaineers have gone a less-than-impressive 7-4. They sit at 18-5 and are ranked 13th in the nation, but their 6-4 conference record is not where they expected to be after their hot start.
The Mountaineers lack offensive firepower. Leading scorer Oscar Tshiebwe averages only 11.5 points per game, and most of those points come from layups. The Mountaineers have shot only 43.2% from the field and only 30% from 3-point range this season. KenPom ranks them as the No. 51 offense in the nation, a far cry from being at the top of the pack.
On defense, it’s a whole different story. West Virginia is just behind Kansas, boasting the second-best defense in the entire country. This is a team that relies on its defense to come up big with lots of stops to bail out the less-than-stellar offense. West Virginia must step up on the defensive side of the ball to cool down this high-powered Kansas offense.
Keys to win
The key for Kansas is simple: play your own game. The Mountaineers defense is tough, but it’s nothing that the Jayhawks offense can’t handle. Kansas walked away with a seven-point victory at home the last time these two teams met, which just proves that all that the Jayhawks need to do is replicate the performance they had before.
West Virginia, on the other hand, needs to mix it up. The offense is going to have to help the defense a lot more than it has been to stay in this game. Great defense can win you plenty of games against inferior opponents, but against a team as good like Kansas, great defense alone is not going to cut it. The Mountaineers need offensive firepower and 3-point shooting to win this game, which they simply do not have.
Prediction: Kansas 68, West Virginia 64
Caleb Schweiger is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.