With a double round robin, there aren't many quirks to a conference schedule, but we'll see one of them tonight when Kansas, who has already finished playing Iowa State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and Baylor, will play West Virginia for the first time. The Mountaineers had a lightning quick start to the season, but have cooled off a bit lately, having lost three of their last four games. West Virginia is ranked 4th in the league, but is probably much worse than that: though they have played both Tech and TCU twice, the Mountaineers are being outscored by .016 points per trip.
The biggest problem for the Jayhawks is, of course, West Virginia's press. The Mountaineers force turnovers on 29.9 percent of their opponents possessions, most in the country, and 27.1 percent in league play, most in the league. Even though the Jayhawks are second in the league in turnover rate, recent problems with the press probably portend some issues tonight.
The rest of the numbers aren't as scary, however. The Mountaineers are 9th in 3 point percentage, 6th in twos, 10th in 3 point percentage allowed, and 9th in two point percentage allowed. It will be a lot tougher for Kansas to control the place of play in Morgantown, but it is obviously easier to slow games down than to speed them up, so expect the Jayhawks to try to turn this into a half court game as much as possible.
We will discuss breaking West Virginia's press a lot more before the return trip to Lawrence, but I expect we will see a lot of Mason and Graham on the floor at the same time as much as possible, and a lot of Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor in order to have bigs who can run up and down the floor.
Individually, West Virginia is led by senior point guard Juwan Staten. The preseason Big 12 player of the year hasn't quite lived up to the promise of last season, but he has been very good in Big 12 play. Staten is shooting just 40 percent on twos and 32 percent from three, but he leads the league in assist rate and has just a 15.4 percent turnover rate. He also leads the league in fouls drown. Staten is going to be a handful for Mason and Graham to handle, coupled with the fact that they will have so much pressure put on them every offensive possession, and I'll be surprised if either or both plays tremendously well.
Elsewhere, sophomore Devin Williams is currently second in the league at drawing fouls and ranks first in defensive rebounding while ranking 8th in offensive rebounding, so he's another rebounder the Jayhawks will have to keep off the glass much like with Rico Gathers in the Baylor game.
The main ballhawk to watch is freshman guard Jevon Carter, who leads the league in steal percentage and ranks 12th nationally. He commits about 4 fouls per 40 minutes in Big 12 play, so getting him in foul trouble seems like a good idea.
I got back on the winning track last game and now am at 14-10-1. Yay. No final score in this game would surprise me. If Kansas handles the press well they could win by 20, even on the road, and if they don't handle it well they could lose by 20. They could also handle it reasonably well and get off to a hot start and then let them come back. This is a long winded way of saying if you actually bet on this game, check into gambler's anonymous. The Jayhawks are favored by 1.5 on the road, and I will reluctantly take the Jayhawks to cover and win 77-72.