Justin K. Aller
Kansas vs. West Virginia: Tipoff Vitals
The Kansas Jayhawks get right back on the road after a quick stop at home against Oklahoma as they travel to Morgantown to play a not so familiar team with a familiar coach. West Virginia and Kansas have never played each other and yet Head Coach Bill Self and Head Coach Bob Huggins have met 4 times, all losses for Huggins. Kansas looks to get their series with West Virginia started on a good note with an easily attainable win, of course no win is easily attainable in the WVU Coliseum. The Mountaineers has only two losses at home, including a narrow, one point loss, loss to Kansas State. Both teams are looking to get their respective offensive going and a high scoring game would be beneficial for both ball clubs.
When: Monday, January 28, 9:00 PM ET
Where: WVU Coliseum, Morgantown, WV
No Injuries to Report
Kansas, yet again, faces a 3rd straight team whose strength is depth, though with so little positive things to say about the Mountaineers, you can't blame me for saying that they have depth. WVU has seen an average of 11 different players on court per game. West Virginia has two players tied for top scorer, C Aaric Murray and G Juwan Staten, who both score, sadly, only 9.6 PPG. Expectations were a bit higher in Morgantown and the talent isn't as bad as the record has shown.
If you think the KU offense has been frustrating lately, you don't know the definition of scoring futility. West Virginia is averaging only 63.6 PPG in conference play alone and, as previously stated, has no player averaging double figure scoring. The Mountaineers are dead last in the Big 12 in field goal percentage and are ranked 314th overall in the nation with a .438 mark.
No Injuries to Report
The Jayhawks have averaged a margin of victory of 10.2 and it isn't because of their offense. The defense has been keeping the Jayhawks afloat, limiting teams to just 35% from the field, 38% from the paint and 32% outside the paint. The Jayhawks have limited Big 12 teams to just 57.8 PPG and that has largely been contributed by C Jeff Withey (13 PPG-8.4 RPG). The Jayhawks debuted the "Withey Block Party" on it's scoreboard saturday to pay homage to Withey's amazing 4.3 blocks per game, which is good enough for 2nd best in the nation.
Weakness: Converting on Scoring Opportunities
The Kansas Jayhawks were very efficient in break away dunks last year they just can't seem to do the same this year. Kansas is creating opportunities off of steals and forced turnovers, yet they can't seem to get the layup to fall or make it close to the basket before getting ripped for a foul. So far in the conference season, the Jayhawks' six opponents have turned the ball over 74 times and yet KU has converted only 42 scoring opportunities on the ensuing possession, meaning only 58% of those opportunities will be turned into points.
Trending Up: SG Travis Releford
G Travis Releford (12.7 PPG-3.4 RPG) has been the Jayhawks most consistent scorer, besides McLemore, this year and is close to beating Withey's place as the Jayhawks 2nd highest scorer. Releford hasn't scored less than 10 points since the game against Chattanooga and has the Jayhawks 2nd best three point percentage of 40.4%. Last year I wouldn't trust Releford with the ball and this year I want to see him with the ball as much as possible, if Releford can have a coming out party like he did against the Sooners last year, when he scored 28 points, KU will become an even larger threat come March.
Trending Down: Offense
Scoring in the 60's may not seem like such a low number, though when you are used to the face pace of the Big 12, it can come off as an abnormality. The Jayhawks are scoring only 68.5 PPG in conference play, which is the lowest it has been in the Bill Self era. KU is hitting only 43.6% FG% in Big 12 play, 4.4% below their season average.
I think it is important that KU should score more than 70 points in this game and not just for entertainment value. I'm sure I speak for every Jayhawk when I say this weak offense output is just unacceptable, honestly KU's last 5 games have looked like Big Ten games: no offense. So maybe some think the Jayhawks last few games scrappy games are entertaining and successful, though if West Virginia can cut through Kansas' defense, it could mean trouble for KU. Fouling out players on the West Virginia roster is almost meaningless as almost every player has an equal skill set, though Kansas cannot do the same as we all now there is no replacement for McLemore. Kansas should establish a lead early and not get cocky and let their lead get chipped away at because the way KU has been playing on the road, anything can happen, especially when playing in a hostile environment such as the WVU Coliseum