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Big 12 Tournament Championship: Kansas - West Virginia Preview

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas takes on West Virginia in the Big 12 wrestling championship tonight, but as long as Kansas can get out of it without an injury to one of its best players the result is somewhat inconsequential. Kansas will be the #1 overall seed and West Virginia is probably locked into a 3 seed, so while both teams definitely want to win, the result means little in the long run.

Kansas plays its 3rd game in 3 days against a team that really relies on the offensive glass to score. WVU, oddly enough, led the nation in offensive rebounding rate this season but finished 2nd in offensive rebounding in conference play. The Mountaineers rebound 39.4 percent of their misses, though the Jayhawks have done well in that regard in both previous meetings. The Mountaineers, like K State, need to get to the line to score. They draw more fouls than anyone in the conference, so this will be a good test to see if Kansas can stay out of foul trouble. Carlton Bragg might commit 5 in 5 minutes.

Defensively the big thing is obviously the turnovers. West Virginia forces Big 12 teams to turn it over on 22.5 percent of their possessions. I don't think Mason and Graham will have a ton of problems, but it will be a big test for the other guards and big men to keep the ball. If you can beat the press it isn't an automatic basket like it was last year, but WVU is still barely in the top half in 3-point and 2-point percentage allowed, and they allow a ton of threes. If Kansas can rebound 3-point wise it will go a long way towards winning. West Virginia also fouls more than anyone in the conference, and that only includes the ones that are actually called.

Players to Watch

Jaysean Paige made it onto my first team this year, and it's not too hard to see why. He led the league in usage rate, shot 49 percent on twos, had a low turnover rate, and was 4th in steal rate. He doesn't shoot well from deep, so Kansas will have to do its best to keep him out of the lane.

Jonathan Holton has been great in the conference season. He had a 125.9 offensive rating, shot 67 percent on twos, and is 3rd in the league in offensive rebounding. At 6-7, Kansas will have the size advantage on him down low, but they'll have to work hard to match his energy level.

Jevon Carter isn't a great scorer, shooting just 39 percent on twos and 24 percent on threes, but he did finish 6th in assist rate and 5th in steal rate, and any scoring he gives WVU will be a big bonus. He also has by far the worst hair in the league and maybe in the country.

The Pick

Kansas didn't have to try too hard in their opening round game, and even though the Baylor game was tight late they didn't have to tax themselves too much. Still, WVU basically got a bye in the quarterfinals and their depth and style of play is more suited for a 3 games in 3 days type scenario. I think West Virginia will take advantage of some tired and foul prone Jayhawk big men and hit the offensive glass just enough to come away with a 76-71 win.