West Virginia sits at third place in the league at 8-5, but leads the league in point differential, outscoring teams by almost 10 points per 100 possessions. And, they always play the Jayhawks tough, with Kansas needing huge comebacks in each of their last two meetings.
Offensively, WVU ranks 2nd in the league, scoring 1.11 points per possession. However, there might be a bit of smoke and mirrors there with the Mountaineers ranking 7th in the league in 2-point percentage and 6th in 3-point percentage. WVU piles up its points simply by getting more shot attempts than the other team.
They lead the league in offensive rebounding, grabbing 37 percent of their misses, and they get roughly 10 percent of their shots in quick transition after an opponent turnover, meaning lots more easy baskets. If Kansas can keep them to a half court game, and just as importantly limit them to jump shots, they should be able to hold them to roughly 1 point per possession like they did in the previous meeting.
Defensively, West Virginia ranks 2nd in the league, allowing roughly 1.02 points per possession, but they haven’t had a true standout defensive effort since January 20 when they held Texas to just .73 points per trip. The Mountaineers have a good 2-point defense, allowing teams to shoot roughly 47 percent inside the arc, and they really excel at the rim, allowing opponents to shoot a paltry 51 percent there, which ranks 12th best in the nation.
This keeps their overall percentage low, despite the fact they allow opponents to take around 40 percent of their attempts at the rim, which is one of the highest rates for power 5 teams. Chiefly important for the Jayhawks as well is West Virginia gives up the 2nd most threes in the conference, so as long as Kansas doesn’t do anything dumb they should be able to score a lot.
Players to Watch
Jevon Carter, 6-2 senior guard
Carter had a rough outing in the first matchup, but still is a cinch to be first team all Big 12. He’s not shooting it great, just 40 percent on twos and 32 percent on threes in conference play, but he ranks 2nd in the league in assist rate and is the league’s best on ball defender. Needless to say, Kansas needs to try to turn him into a scorer whenever possible.
Sagaba Konate, 6-8 sophomore forward
Konate had a double double and 5 blocks in the first matchup, and currently leads the league in both defensive rebounding and blocks percentage. He’s also 7th in the league in offensive rebounding. For some reason he’s not playing a ton, which might keep him off the all Big 12 first team.
Keys to the Game
- Three point shooting - I’m sure it is a bit tiring for me to continually point out the 3-point shooting, but with the number of threes the Mountaineers give up and how good their rim protection is, Kansas needs to make at least a decent percentage of threes.
- Defensive rebounding - West Virginia needs to grab a ton of rebounds to score points, along with forcing turnovers, but Kansas has almost always improved on the defensive glass from the first West Virginia matchup to the second one (granted, not always by a lot), and West Virginia needs to really dominate.
- Turnovers - Kansas leads the league in turnover rate, while West Virginia is 2nd in turnovers forced. Kansas turned it over on just 19 percent of their trips in the first matchup, and the turnovers really dried up in the 2nd half when Kansas made its comeback.
If Bill Self gets stubborn and the Jayhawks try to score too much at the rim, they might be in a bit of trouble. They also might be in a bit of trouble if they allow West Virginia to grab too many offensive rebounds. But, with one of the best players of the Self era in town to get his jersey retired, I can’t pick against them. I’ll take Kansas 73-70.