Saturday's opponent for Kansas is the West Virginia Mountaineers, led by coach Bob Huggins. True to what we've come to expect from Huggins, West Virginia emphasizes defense above all else. Though the days of "Press Virginia" appear to be gone, this is still a team that plays physical (and will foul quite a bit) and will force a lot of turnovers, at a rate that ranks 9th in the country. That should make Jayhawk fans a little nervous, as high pressure defense forcing turnovers was responsible for a loss to Texas Tech and near defeat against Iowa State. With Remy Martin's status still up in the air, that on its own is reason for concern.
Offensively, there isn't much to fear here, but as Iowa State showed, it doesn't matter if you're handing the ball over a quarter of the time. West Virginia will crash the offensive boards hard (though they don't do especially well on the other end), and will frequently attack the basket and draw fouls in the paint. However, if they can't get to the line, they won't shoot especially well. They're making less than half of their twos, and their 32% rate from three point range puts them at 244th nationally.
Players to Watch
Taz Sherman, senior guard/wing
Sherman leads the team in scoring (about 20 points per game), assists, and is their highest volume three point shooter. He hits 36% from outside, and he's adept at attacking the rim and drawing fouls, where he hits 79%. He's also second on the team in steals, making him a threat Kansas needs to be aware of on both ends.
Kedrian Johnson, senior guard
Johnson isn't an elite offensive player, with weak offensive numbers for someone at least nominally running point. But, especially if Kansas doesn't have a healthy Remy Martin, he could be a nightmare for the Jayhawks. He's 3rd in the nation in steal rate, but there is a bright side: he's turning it over on a horrific 27.5% of his possessions on the other side of the court.
Sean McNeil, senior guard
I usually pick the other team's biggest 3 point threat for these lists, and in this case it's McNeil. He's attempted 71 threes this year and has hit 41% of them. He also hits nearly half of his twos, making him the second leading scorer on the team. On the other side of the court, he's one of the few Mountaineer guards who rarely forces a steal.
Kansas is currently a 12-point favorite over West Virginia. With a fully healthy Remy Martin, I could see a double digit victory for KU here. But since Martin is a game time decision, and unlikely to be 100% even if he does go, and since West Virginia's defense is exactly the type that gives the Jayhawks fits without their lead ball handler, I just don't see them covering. That said, I also don't see an outright loss. Kansas 72, West Virginia 66
Record ATS: 10-5