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Getting to know: West Virginia basketball

West Virginia guard Jevon Carter (2) puts up a shot against Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) during the first half, Monday, Jan. 15, 2018 at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, West Virginia.

West Virginia guard Jevon Carter (2) puts up a shot against Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) during the first half, Monday, Jan. 15, 2018 at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, West Virginia. by Nick Krug

After a three-game losing streak at the end of January, West Virginia is starting to look like one of the top teams in the Big 12 again with wins in three of its last four games.

Next up is a challenge that the Mountaineers have never accomplished: a win inside of Allen Fieldhouse. With ESPN’s College GameDay in Lawrence, 20th-ranked West Virginia will face No. 13 Kansas at 5:15 p.m. Saturday (TV: ESPN).

The Mountaineers (19-7, 8-5 Big 12) sit in third place in the conference standings, two games behind leader Texas Tech. They picked up a 16-point home win over TCU earlier this week.

“We don’t like them, they don’t like us,” Devonte’ Graham said Thursday. “Coach (Bob) Huggins gets $25,000 every time he beats us, so I don’t like that.”

In the latest KenPom rankings, Kansas is No. 13 and West Virginia follows at No. 14.

Fun fact: Under coach Bob Huggins, the Moutaineers have a 195-31 record when holding opponents to 69 points or less. They won 74 of their last 76 games when opposing teams don’t reach 70 points.

Series history: Kansas leads 8-4. The Jayhawks have a 5-0 record vs. the Mountaineers at Allen Fieldhouse.

BREAKING DOWN WEST VIRGINIA

TOP PLAYER

No. 2 — G Jevon Carter | 6-2, 205, sr.

West Virginia guard Jevon Carter (2) tosses a pass under Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) during the first half, Monday, Jan. 15, 2018 at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, West Virginia.

West Virginia guard Jevon Carter (2) tosses a pass under Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) during the first half, Monday, Jan. 15, 2018 at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, West Virginia. by Nick Krug

Leading the nation with 81 steals this season, Carter continues to bother opposing guards with his tight defense. In Big 12 play, he’s averaging 15.1 points on 31.8 percent shooting from the 3-point arc while dishing 7.2 assists per game.

From Maywood, Ill., he’s only scored more than 10 points in one of his last four games, struggling to find his 3-point stroke. Even without scoring, he’s second on the team with 4.5 rebounds in conference play. Defensively, he’s snagged a steal in 16 straight games.

Against KU this season: 14 points on 4 of 15 shooting (2 of 8 from 3) with three rebounds, four assists and one steal.

  • “I always believed in myself,” Carter said. “I always had a certain group of people that believed in me. I’ve always worked as hard as I can just to be the best I could.”

SUPPORTING CAST

No. 50 — F Sagaba Konate | 6-8, 260, so.

West Virginia forward Sagaba Konate (50) receives the applause of the crowd following a block against Kansas during the first half, Monday, Jan. 15, 2018 at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, West Virginia.

West Virginia forward Sagaba Konate (50) receives the applause of the crowd following a block against Kansas during the first half, Monday, Jan. 15, 2018 at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, West Virginia. by Nick Krug

One of the most improved big men across the country, Konate has blocked 40 shots against conference opponents, ranking second in the Big 12. West Virginia’s most efficient inside scorer (converts on 72.2 percent of his shots at the rim, according to hoop-math.com), Konate (Kuh-NUH-teh) is averaging 12.2 points and 9.2 rebounds in Big 12 action.

Against KU this season: Blocked five shots and recorded a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds in 33 minutes.

No. 4 — G Daxter Miles Jr. | 6-3, 200, sr.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) defends against a drive by West Virginia guard Daxter Miles Jr. (4) during the second half, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) defends against a drive by West Virginia guard Daxter Miles Jr. (4) during the second half, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

A strong slasher, Miles has struggled from behind the 3-point arc throughout the season. He’s only shooting 25.6 percent from 3 in Big 12 play, averaging 9.3 points. Usually a big piece of Press Virginia, he’s recorded a total of six steals in his last 10 games.

Against KU this season: Only shot 4 of 11 from the field on his way to nine points, adding four rebounds, four assists and two turnovers.

No. 15 — F Lamont West | 6-8, 230, so.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) defends against a shot from West Virginia forward Lamont West (15) during the first half, Monday, Jan. 15, 2018 at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) defends against a shot from West Virginia forward Lamont West (15) during the first half, Monday, Jan. 15, 2018 at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, West Virginia. by Nick Krug

Becoming a more consistent shooter in recent games, West is averaging 9.7 points and 3.2 rebounds against Big 12 opponents. He’s shooting 39.1 percent from the 3-point arc, which ranks second on the team. He’s a strong offensive rebounder, but only takes 20 percent of his shots at the rim according to hoop-math.com.

Against KU this season: Scored seven points shooting 1 of 7 from the 3-point line to go along with six rebounds and a block.

No. 23 — F Esa Ahmad | 6-8, 230, jr.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) scoops in a bucket past West Virginia forward Esa Ahmad (23) during the second half, Monday, Jan. 15, 2018 at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) scoops in a bucket past West Virginia forward Esa Ahmad (23) during the second half, Monday, Jan. 15, 2018 at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, West Virginia. by Nick Krug

Since returning from an NCAA suspension, Ahmad has been inconsistent in conference play. He’s recorded 15 or more points in four games and three points or less in three games. He still ranks third in scoring with 11.0 points against conference opponents. The Cleveland native has added 4.3 rebounds each night.

Against KU this season: In 28 minutes off of the bench, he had 16 points, five rebounds, five turnovers and two steals.

ONE THING WEST VIRGINIA DOES WELL

Beyond forcing turnovers, West Virginia ranks second in the Big 12 with a plus-3.4 rebounding margin (only behind Baylor’s plus-4.3). The Moutaineers have either matched or outscored opponents in second-chance points in 10 of their 13 conference games.

ONE AREA WEST VIRGINIA STRUGGLES

It’s a product of Press Virginia, but the Moutaineers commit a lot of fouls and send opposing teams to the free-throw line often. In Big 12 play, opponents are averaging nearly 24 attempts per game. Opponents have shot more free throws in nine of the team’s last 10 games.

MEET THE NEW RECRUITING CLASS

The Mountaineers signed four players in the November signing period and have a class than ranks 59th by Rivals. West Virginia will add 6-foot-10 forwards Derek Culver and Andrew Gordon, along with 6-foot guard Jordan McCabe and 6-foot-3 guard Trey Doomes.

Culver, who was originally signed to the ’17 class, plays at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. He was a four-star prospect out of high school. Doomes and McCabe are both ranked near the end of the Rivals Top 150.

VEGAS SAYS…

Kansas by 3.5. Outside of KU’s offensive problems against Baylor, no Big 12 team has forced Kansas to play as poorly in a half as West Virginia in Morgantown. Of course, the Mountaineers couldn’t sustain the momentum and eventually lost by 5. The difference now is their offensive is performing at a higher level than the start of conference play. I think Esa Ahmad has a big game.

My prediction: West Virginia 74, Kansas 71. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 14-11.

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Getting to know: West Virginia basketball

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) drives against West Virginia guard Jevon Carter (2) during the second half, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) drives against West Virginia guard Jevon Carter (2) during the second half, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

After five games of Big 12 play, four teams lead the pack and are tied for first place. There will be some more separation when two of those leaders, West Virginia and Kansas, meet at 8 p.m. Monday (TV: ESPN) at WVU Coliseum.

The Mountaineers (15-2, 4-1 in Big 12) won 15 straight games before their one-point road loss to Texas Tech — another team tied for the Big 12 lead — last weekend. Previously ranked No. 2 in the country, it was the program’s highest ranking since Jerry West’s senior season in 1959.

Known for its “Press Virginia” defense, WVU ranks third in the country with 19.9 turnovers forced per game. Texas Tech was the first team to commit less than 14 turnovers in a game all season.

“You would think a formula would be multiple ball handlers,” KU coach Bill Self said. “But we’ve had Frank (Mason) and Devonte’ (Graham) go up there and had problems with that. With (WVU guards Jevon) Carter and (Daxter) Miles out there, they create so much havoc.”

Heading into the Big Monday matchup, the Jayhawks (14-3, 4-1) have won nine consecutive true road games. In the KenPom rankings, West Virginia is 10th and Kansas is 11th. ESPN’s BPI places KU eighth and WVU 12th.

Fun fact: Starting this season by playing a game in Germany, the Mountaineers will log 28,254 miles of travel by the time they begin play in the Big 12 Tournament. Outside of their international game, their longest trip of the season was last weekend to Lubbock, Texas (2,930 miles round trip).

Series history: Kansas leads 7-4. The Jayhawks have a 1-4 record in Morgantown, losing their last four road games at WVU Coliseum.

BREAKING DOWN WEST VIRGINIA

TOP PLAYER

No. 2 — G Jevon Carter | 6-2, 205, sr.

West Virginia guard Jevon Carter (2) celebrates a bucket and a foul with teammate Sagaba Konate during the first half, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

West Virginia guard Jevon Carter (2) celebrates a bucket and a foul with teammate Sagaba Konate during the first half, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

One of the biggest reasons West Virginia’s press defense is so successful is the ability of Carter. He ranks second in the country with 3.59 steals per game, grabbing at least three in his last seven contests.

Beyond his defense (he’s second on the team with nine blocks), the Maywood, Ill., native is averaging 16.8 points, 6.5 assists and 5.4 rebounds to establish himself as one of the most well-rounded guards in the nation. He’s an 83.5 percent free-throw shooter.

Carter broke the school’s all-time steals record earlier this season, which was formerly held by Greg Jones (1979-83). He ranks 21st all-time in school scoring (1,404 points). He’s only the third player in Big 12 history to be named to the All-Defensive team in three seasons.

  • “I always believed in myself,” Carter told NCAA.com’s Andy Katz. “I always had a certain group of people that believed in me. I’ve always worked as hard as I can just to be the best I could.”

SUPPORTING CAST

No. 15 — F Lamont West | 6-8, 230, so.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) and Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) defend against a three by West Virginia forward Lamont West (15) during the second half, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) and Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) defend against a three by West Virginia forward Lamont West (15) during the second half, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

A terrific offensive rebounder, West is averaging 12.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He’s made 33 percent of his 85 3-point attempts. He ranks second on the Mountaineers with 30 offensive boards.

West has scored in double figures in eight of the last nine games. His mom, Tonya, was a four-year starter at Purdue from 1993-96 and led the Boilermakers to a ’94 Final Four appearance.

No. 4 — G Daxter Miles Jr. | 6-3, 200, sr.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) defends against a drive by West Virginia guard Daxter Miles Jr. (4) during the second half, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) defends against a drive by West Virginia guard Daxter Miles Jr. (4) during the second half, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Similar to Carter, Miles is another reason West Virginia’s press is so effective. Miles has 28 steals this year, which ranks sixth in the Big 12. He’s averaging 13.2 points, 3.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds, only shooting 27 percent from the 3-point arc.

From Baltimore, Miles is WVU’s top slasher, taking 33.5 percent of his shots at the rim where he is a strong finisher according to hoop-math.com. He crossed the 1,000-point plateau in December, becoming the 51st player in program history to accomplish the feat.

No. 50 — F Sagaba Konate | 6-8, 260, so.

Ranking second in the Big 12 in blocked shots (47), Konate (pronounced Kuh-NUH-teh) is still developing his offensive presence as he alters game with his length. He’s averaging 8.9 points and a team-best 7.8 rebounds. In five Big 12 games, he’s recorded 15 blocks (seven vs. Baylor).

According to hoop-math.com, Konate only shoots 33.3 percent of his shots at the rim, preferring to attempt jump shots. He’s made 49.1 percent of his shots. From Mali, he moved to the United State prior to his junior year in high school.

No. 23 — F Esa Ahmad | 6-8, 230, jr.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) looks to make a move on West Virginia forward Esa Ahmad (23) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017 at WVU Coliseum.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) looks to make a move on West Virginia forward Esa Ahmad (23) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017 at WVU Coliseum. by Nick Krug

Ahmad missed the first 16 games of the season because he didn’t meet NCAA eligibility requirements. In his return at Texas Tech, he had 18 points and six rebounds in 34 minutes off the bench.

Against Kansas last season, Ahmad totaled 47 points and 12 rebounds in 64 minutes. The Cleveland native averaged 11.3 points in the 2016-17 season.

ONE THING WEST VIRGINIA DOES WELL

Let’s go with the obvious: West Virginia knows how to force turnovers. Behind Press Virginia, the Mountaineers have forced 338 turnovers and only allowed 355 made field goals this season. Opponents are turning the ball over on 27 percent of their possessions, the second-best mark in the country.

Beyond the usual advantages of its press defense, the Mountaineers are the best free-throw shooting team in the Big 12. They’ve made 79.4 percent of their attempts in league play.

ONE AREA WEST VIRGINIA STRUGGLES

It’s hard to find many faults for a team that won 15 straight games prior to Saturday’s one-point road loss to Texas Tech. But if there was something to nitpick, the Mountaineers allow a lot of 3-point attempts. Opposing teams are shooting 34.7 percent from behind the arc, but they are averaging more than 20 attempts per game.

MEET THE COACH

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins has words for an official during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017 at WVU Coliseum.

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins has words for an official during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017 at WVU Coliseum. by Nick Krug

In his 36th season as a head coach, Bob Huggins is seventh on the all-time Div. I winningest coaches list with an 834-332 record. He was announced as a candidate for the Naismith Hall of Fame Class of 2018.

Back at his alma mater, Huggins has coached at West Virginia since the 2007-08 season. He’s guided the Mountaineers to three Sweet 16 appearances. During his college career at WVU, he averaged 13.2 points as a senior.

VEGAS SAYS…

West Virginia by 4.5. It’s the first time this season that the Jayhawks will enter a game as an underdog. KU hasn’t won in Morgantown since 2013 and it certainly won’t be any easier Monday. Unlike road games at Texas and TCU, I think Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles can matchup better against KU’s guards.

My prediction: West Virginia 78, Kansas 70. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 8-8.

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Getting to know: West Virginia football

West Virginia quarterback Will Grier (7) attempts a pass during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Delaware State, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, in Morgantown, W.Va.

West Virginia quarterback Will Grier (7) attempts a pass during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Delaware State, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, in Morgantown, W.Va.

After back-to-back losses to MAC teams, the Kansas football team is tasked with trying to slow down West Virginia’s offense in its Big 12 opener Saturday morning.

What was the first thing KU coach David Beaty noticed when he watched film of the Mountaineers?

“Speed, speed, speed,” Beaty said. “I mean, for years that university has been renowned for going down to Florida and getting a bunch of fast guys. They've continued to do that.”

The Mountaineers (2-1) are the first team outside of the Top 25 in both the AP and Coaches polls. They lost their season opener to Virginia Tech, 31-24, before picking up wins against East Carolina and Delaware State.

Kansas freshman wide receiver Jeremiah Booker, top, tries to wrestle away an interception by West Virginia cornerback Nan Kyeremeh, (14) during the Jayhawks 49-0 loss to the West Virginia Mountaineers Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas freshman wide receiver Jeremiah Booker, top, tries to wrestle away an interception by West Virginia cornerback Nan Kyeremeh, (14) during the Jayhawks 49-0 loss to the West Virginia Mountaineers Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Memorial Stadium. by Mike Yoder

BREAKING DOWN WEST VIRGINIA:

OFFENSE

Quarterback

After transferring from Florida, redshirt junior Will Grier (6-2, 214) hasn’t missed a beat under his new offense. In three games, Grier has completed 66 percent of his passes for 1,027 yards, 11 touchdowns and two interceptions. Grier, picked as the Big 12’s preseason newcomer of the year, has 20 rushing attempts for 80 yards. KU coach David Beaty said Grier is tough to play against because he can throw from a variety of arm angles. The Florida transfer is backed up by sophomore Chris Chugunov (6-1, 203), who has completed 10 of his 16 passes this year.

Running backs

The Mountaineers’ rushing attack starts with senior Justin Crawford (6-0, 200), an all-Big 12 preseason selection. Crawford a Northwest Mississippi CC transfer, has impressed during the first three weeks, accumulating 326 rushing yards and five touchdowns, averaging a league-best 7.6 yards per carry. In each game, he’s reached the 100-yard mark. Sophomores Kennedy McKoy (6-0, 201) and Martell Pettaway, along with freshman Tevin Bush (5-6, 174, from same HS as KU safety Mike Lee), all have at least 14 carries for 70 yards.

Receivers

Grier has no shortage of targets in the passing game, highlighted by junior receivers David Sills V (6-4, 203) and Gary Jennings Jr. (6-1, 210). Sills, who left to play quarterback at El Camino College last year, has 18 catches for 266 yards and a team-high five touchdowns, while Jennings leads WVU with 23 catches and 363 receiving yards. Senior Ka’Raun White (6-2, 216) has 14 catches for 173 yards and two scores, and sophomore Marcus Simms (6-0, 196) has five receptions for 143 yards and three touchdowns.

Offensive line

WVU’s offensive line is filled with experience. LT Yodny Cajuste (6-5, 308), LG Kyle Bosch (6-5, 298) and RT Colton McKivitz (6-7, 306) have all started at least 10 games in their careers. Cajuste, a junior, missed all of last season with a knee injury. C Matt Jones (6-3, 318) and RG Josh Sills (6-6, 315) are the other starters.

Kansas running back Ke'aun Kinner rides atop his teammates and West Virginia defenders as the Jayhawks push for yards in a 49-0 loss to the Mountaineers Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas running back Ke'aun Kinner rides atop his teammates and West Virginia defenders as the Jayhawks push for yards in a 49-0 loss to the Mountaineers Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, at Memorial Stadium. by Mike Yoder

DEFENSE

Defensive line

In a base 3-3-5 stack alignment, the Mountaineers have a lot of responsibilities on their sophomore defensive ends Adam Schuler II (6-4, 268) and Reese Donahue (6-4, 263) and senior nose tackle Xavier Pegues (6-2, 292). None of them have recorded any sacks, but Schuler and Donahue have combined for 17 total tackles.

Linebackers

With a mostly inexperienced group of defensive linemen, the Mountaineers are led by senior middle linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton (6-1, 238). Benton leads WVU with 24 tackles (five for loss), including 13 solo. Xavier Preston (6-2, 240) is the team’s strongside outside linebacker and redshirt freshman Dyle Tonkery (6-2, 222) covers the weakside. Tonkery, a strong pass rusher, has 12 tackles, including 3.5 for loss and one sack. Preston has recorded nine tackles.

Secondary

Senior safety Kyzir White (6-2, 216), the younger brother of former WVU star receiver Kevin White, highlights the team’s stable of defensive backs with 18 tackles in three games, including two interceptions. Safety Dravon Askew-Henry (6-0, 200) has one interception and 13 tackles. True freshman cornerback Kenny Robinson (6-0, 202) had six tackles last week and senior corner Mike Daniels Jr. (5-11, 203) has recorded four pass breakups. Safety Marvin Gross Jr. (6-3, 205) is the other starter in the secondary.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Junior punter Billy Kinney ranks fifth in the Big 12, averaging 39.5 yards per punt. Six of his 16 punts have pinned the opponent inside of its own 20 yard line. Senior kicker Mike Molina has converted on 2 of his 4 field goal attempts this season with a long of 34 yards. Molina, who has a career long of 50 yards, is 18-of-18 on extra point kicks. Receiver Marcus Simms is the primary returner, which included an 80-yard kick return last week.

FUN FACT

WVU quarterback Will Grier is considered the third-most popular son in his family. He’s the older brother of teenagers Nash and Hayes Grier, both considered among the most influential people on the Internet for their videos on social media platforms (including more than 15 million followers combined on Instagram).

VEGAS SAYS…

West Virginia by 21.5. The over/under is set at 71.

Until KU’s defense proves it’s capable of slowing down quarterbacks with its pass rush or secondary, it’s tough to imagine the Jayhawks keeping up with the Mountaineers’ strong passing offense.

Among FBS schools, the Jayhawks rank 113th in passing defense, giving up 297 yards per game and 8.74 yards per attempt.

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Getting to know: West Virginia basketball (and recruits)

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) gets to the bucket against West Virginia guard Jevon Carter (2) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017 at WVU Coliseum.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) gets to the bucket against West Virginia guard Jevon Carter (2) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017 at WVU Coliseum. by Nick Krug

The Kansas Jayhawks already survived a stretch against three ranked teams in consecutive games a couple of weeks ago.

Next up is a Big Monday clash against No. 9 West Virginia (8 p.m., ESPN) before heading on the road to play No. 4 Baylor.

The Mountaineers snapped KU's 18-game winning streak last month and sit two games back in the Big 12 race.

West Virginia leads the country in turnover margin (plus-10.1) and steals (11.1), second in scoring margin (plus-20.2), fourth in offensive rebounds (14.7), 10th in scoring offense (86.0) and 12th in assists (17.4).

Interesting note: The Mountaineers have a 6-1 record in their last seven games against AP Top 25 teams.

Series history: Kansas leads 6-4. Jayhawks have a 4-0 record against WVU inside of Allen Fieldhouse.

Vegas says: Kansas by 5.

WEST VIRGINIA STARTERS

No. 2 — G Jevon Carter | 6-2, 200, jr.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) gets to the bucket against West Virginia guard Jevon Carter (2) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017 at WVU Coliseum.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) gets to the bucket against West Virginia guard Jevon Carter (2) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017 at WVU Coliseum. by Nick Krug

  • A two-time honoree on the All-Big 12 defensive team, Carter leads the conference with 72 steals this season. He ranks seventh in the nation with 2.88 thefts per game. No other player in the Big 12 has more than 59 steals.

  • Along with his defense, Carter leads the Mountaineers with 11.8 points per game on 44 percent shooting. He’s dished 108 assists to 48 turnovers while grabbing an average of 4.4 rebounds.

  • According to hoop-math.com, Carter only takes 25 percent of his shots at the rim, one of the lowest marks on the squad. He’s scored on 66 percent of those layups/dunks.

  • Against KU this season: 9 points (3-of-8 shooting), 9 assists, 8 rebounds and 2 steals in 34 minutes.

No. 12 — G Tarik Phillip | 6-3, 195, sr.

West Virginia guard Tarik Phillip (12) celebrates a dunk by West Virginia forward Sagaba Konate (50) during the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017 at WVU Coliseum.

West Virginia guard Tarik Phillip (12) celebrates a dunk by West Virginia forward Sagaba Konate (50) during the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017 at WVU Coliseum. by Nick Krug

  • Phillip is averaging 9.3 points and 2.8 rebounds in 22.9 minutes per game. He’s shooting 44 percent from the floor and 39 percent from deep, and 66 percent at the free throw line.

  • A pesky defender, Phillip ranks second on the team with 42 steals and he’s blocked eight shots.

  • According to hoop-math.com, Phillip usually scores on drives to the rim. Only 8.1 percent of his buckets at the rim were on assists from teammates.

  • Against KU this season: 10 points (3-of-6 shooting), 4 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals in 24 minutes.

No. 11 — F Nathan Adrian | 6-9, 235, sr.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) and West Virginia forward Nathan Adrian (11) compete for a loose ball during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017 at WVU Coliseum.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) and West Virginia forward Nathan Adrian (11) compete for a loose ball during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017 at WVU Coliseum. by Nick Krug

  • Second on the team in minutes (28.9 per game), Adrian averages 10.8 points and a team-best 6.4 rebounds. He’s a strong passer with 72 assists to 37 turnovers.

  • A Morgantown native, Adrian ranks fourth in the Big 12 with 3.0 offensive rebounds per game. He’s collected 74 offensive boards this season.

  • One of the important glue players, Adrian is shooting 45.9 percent from the floor and 33.8 percent from downtown.

  • Against KU this season: 11 points (4-of-6 shooting), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks in 29 minutes.

No. 23 — F Esa Ahmad | 6-8, 225, soph.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) looks to make a move on West Virginia forward Esa Ahmad (23) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017 at WVU Coliseum.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) looks to make a move on West Virginia forward Esa Ahmad (23) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017 at WVU Coliseum. by Nick Krug

  • Since scoring 27 points against Kansas last month, Ahmad has averaged 9.6 points, including a scoreless outing against Oklahoma State in 14 minutes.

  • Throughout the season, Ahmad is averaging 11.6 points and 4.1 rebounds. He’s shooting 50.5 percent from the floor and 64.9 percent at the free throw line. He's added 29 steals and 18 blocks.

  • Pronunciation: E-sa AAh-muhd.

  • Against KU this season: A career-high 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting, 5 rebounds and 2 assists in 32 minutes.

No. 45 — F Elijah Macon | 6-9, 240, jr.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis wrestles with West Virginia forward Elijah Macon (45) for a ball during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis wrestles with West Virginia forward Elijah Macon (45) for a ball during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

  • Macon has posted averages of 4.7 points and 3.0 rebounds in 12.5 minutes per game. He’s shooting 56 percent from the field and 63 percent at the charity stripe.

  • His mom, Renai, died two years ago after battling cancer.

  • Against KU this season: 7 points (2-of-2 shooting) and 5 rebounds in 11 minutes.

WEST VIRGINIA RECRUITS

G Brandon Knapper | 6-0, 170

  • Playing at Hargrave Military Academy, Knapper has led his team to a 34-1 record. At the beginning of the season, he was averaging 24 points and five assists per game.

  • As a senior in high school, at South Charleston High, Knapper was an all-state selection after averaging 28.5 points, 6.0 assists and 5.4 steals per game. He scored more than 1,000 points in his first two seasons at South Charleston.

  • He chose the Mountaineers over offers from Marshall and East Tennessee State.

  • Knapper grew up in California and dreamed of playing for UCLA before moving to West Virginia in the eighth grade.

  • QUOTE: He was excited about going to prep school to make himself ready to play at this level,” Huggins said. “Because of that, we think he will be ready to come in and play major minutes with the loss of two senior guards.”

F Teddy Allen | 6-6, 225

  • Allen grew up in Mesa, Arizona but attends Boys Town High in Omaha, Nebraska. He’s led his team to a 15-6 record, averaging 29.7 points, 12.2 rebounds and 3.5 steals per game. He recorded a quadruple-double last month with 33 points, 18 rebounds, 10 assists and 11 steals in a game.

  • He averaged 27 points and 12 rebounds during his junior season at Boys Town High, only playing in the second semester.

  • According to West Virginia, Allen has a 6-8 wingspan.

  • He chose West Virginia over Nebraska-Omaha and DePaul. His younger brother, Timmy, is a high-major recruit in Arizona.

  • QUOTE: “It was hard to find something I didn’t like,’’ Allen said. “The school, the guys, the coach. The guys would do anything for Coach.… It was a situation where there was love all around and it was like a real family, which is when I play my best.”

F D’Angelo Hunter | 6-6, 180

None by D'Angelo Hunter

  • Hunter, who attends Navarro College in Texas, previously played at Pleasure Ridge Park High in Louisville and St. John Northwestern Military Academy in Wisconsin.

  • In 21 games, Hunter leads Navarro with 15.1 points per game on 33 percent shooting, including a 30 percent mark at the 3-point line. He added 4.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.

  • Last season, Hunter averaged 8.4 points and 4.1 rebounds in 19 games.

  • According to Rivals, Hunter had offers from Buffalo, Iona, Troy, Utah State and Eastern Kentucky.

  • QUOTE: “D’Angelo is getting better and better all the time,” Huggins said. “He plays for a coach who demands hard work and plays the same pressing style as we do. He should be able to make a quick adjustment to our style of play at this level.”

F Wesley Harris | 6-8, 200

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-ADic859TM

  • Before playing at junior colleges, Harris averaged 10.3 points and 6.1 rebounds during his senior season at Callaway High in Mississippi alongside Kansas transfer Malik Newman. They won four state titles together.

  • During his freshman year of JUCO ball at Northeast Mississippi, Harris averaged 18.2 points and 8.4 rebounds. He shot 47 percent from the field.

  • He was supposed to play at Lawson State this year, but was sidelined with an unspecified injury.

  • QUOTE: “Wesley is very physically talented player, who will add significant athleticism to our front line, Huggins said. “He will run and jump as well as anyone in our league. He also shoots the 3 extremely well, which will further enable us to extend defenses.”

F Derek Culver | 6-10, 210

  • Playing at Warren G. Harding High, Culver led his team to a 23-4 record last season, averaging 16 points, 10 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. It’s the same high school that produced football players Korey Stringer, Mario Mannningham and Maurice Clarett.

  • It was reported in January that Culver was removed from his high school basketball team. He had recently scored his 1,000th career point. The Warren Tribune Chronicle reported he was academically ineligible. Warren Harding coach Andy Vlajovich declined to provide a reason.

  • Ranked 77th in the country by Rivals, the four-star prospect picked WVU over offers from Purdue, Indiana, Xavier, Illinois and North Carolina State.

  • QUOTE: “Derek brings much-needed size and athleticism to the front line with the losses to our front line in the last couple of years,” Huggins said. “We expect him to be productive in filling those spots. He is a very agile big man who will be able to use his size and athleticism in our style of play.”

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Getting to know: West Virginia basketball

A West Virginia cheerleader rides on top of a crowd of fans as the rush the court after defeating the Jayhawks 74-63 at the WVU Colliseum in Morgantown, W.V. Tuesday.

A West Virginia cheerleader rides on top of a crowd of fans as the rush the court after defeating the Jayhawks 74-63 at the WVU Colliseum in Morgantown, W.V. Tuesday. by Mike Yoder

West Virginia enters Tuesday’s primetime matchup against second-ranked Kansas on a two-game losing streak, but that won’t diminish any significance in Morgantown.

The 18th-ranked Mountaineers have won three straight matchups against the Jayhawks in their home arena, and they view Tuesday (6 p.m., ESPN) as another opportunity to make a big statement.

In those three losses, the Jayhawks haven’t shot above 50 percent and they were outrebounded in each game.

“They’ve got great speed,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said of the Jayhawks. “They just run at people, and all of a sudden they’re laying it in and most people are just trying to catch up. They’ve got great speed in transition.”

West Virginia, ranked No. 4 in KenPom — four spots ahead of Kansas, was ranked inside of the top 10 prior to an overtime, home loss to Oklahoma and road loss at Kansas State.

Of course, turnovers will be the must-watch category. The Mountaineers (15-4, 4-3 in Big 12) are 0-3 when they turn the ball over more than their opponents. The Jayhawks (18-1, 7-0) should be well-equipped to handle “Press Virginia” with their four-guard lineup, which Matt Tait wrote about Monday.

“What we have to do is attack their pressure to score and then, obviously, take care of the basketball so we don’t have live-ball turnovers,” KU coach Bill Self said. “And then we’ve gotta rebound. We need to steal some possessions on the glass because that’s what they make a living on, stealing extra possessions off the glass.”

And in case you missed it, Tom Keegan wrote a nice feature on Bob Huggins’ roots in West Virginia earlier this week.

Interesting note: The Mountaineers are 5-1 in their last six games against Top 25 teams.

Series history: Kansas leads 6-3. The Jayhawks are 1-3 in Morgantown.

Vegas says: West Virginia by 4.

WEST VIRGINIA STARTERS

No. 2 — G Jevon Carter | 6-2, 200, jr.

West Virginia guard Jevon Carter (2) breaks through Oklahoma players during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, in Morgantown, W.Va.

West Virginia guard Jevon Carter (2) breaks through Oklahoma players during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, in Morgantown, W.Va.

  • A two-time honoree on the All-Big 12 defensive team, Carter leads the conference with 60 steals this season. He ranks fourth in the nation with 3.16 thefts per game. No other player in the Big 12 has more than 43 steals.

  • Along with his defense, Carter leads the Mountaineers with 12.0 points per game on 44 percent shooting. He’s dished 87 assists to 33 turnovers while grabbing an average of 4.1 rebounds.

  • Against the Jayhawks last season, Carter scored 20 points in 78 minutes (7-of-19 shooting) with five assists and three steals.

  • According to hoop-math.com, Carter only takes 28 percent of his shots at the rim, one of the lowest marks on the squad. He’s scored on 66 percent of those layups/dunks.

  • QUOTE: “Last year, I feel like I worked hard, but I didn’t work hard enough and it showed,” Carter said. “That’s why we came up short. If you shortcut the game, the game’s going to shortcut you. That’s why I give the game my all and sometimes, you get rewarded.”

No. 4 — G Daxter Miles Jr. | 6-3, 200, jr.

West Virginia guard Daxter Miles Jr. (4) is stripped of the ball by Kansas State guard Kamau Stokes, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017.

West Virginia guard Daxter Miles Jr. (4) is stripped of the ball by Kansas State guard Kamau Stokes, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017.

  • Shooting 49.6 percent from the floor, Miles is averaging 10.3 points in 20.6 minutes per game. He’s shooting 37.9 percent from deep, but only 58.8 percent at the free throw line.

  • Miles scored 12 points in 64 minutes during three games against the Jayhawks last year.

  • Doesn’t spend much time taking shots outside of threes and at the rim. According to hoop-math.com, Miles has taken a team-low percentage of mid-range jumpers (13.3).

  • His high school coach, Cyrus Jones, played at West Virginia.

  • QUOTE: “Dax, J.C. and Esa, when they have open shots, I want them to shoot it,” Huggins said. “I get more upset when they don’t shoot it than when they do.”

No. 11 — F Nathan Adrian | 6-9, 235, sr.

West Virginia forward Nathan Adrian (11) gets to a loose ball ahead of Kansas State guard Barry Brown (5) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017.

West Virginia forward Nathan Adrian (11) gets to a loose ball ahead of Kansas State guard Barry Brown (5) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017.

  • Second on the team in minutes (28.3 per game), Adrian averages 10.6 points and a team-best 6.4 rebounds. He’s a strong passer with 61 assists to 27 turnovers.

  • A Morgantown native, Adrian ranks third in the Big 12 with 3.2 offensive rebounds per game. He’s collected 61 offensive boards this season.

  • One of the important glue players, Adrian is shooting 43.5 percent from the floor and 27.1 percent from downtown.

  • Averaged 5.7 points on 7-of-11 shooting and 3.3 rebounds against KU last year.

  • QUOTE: “He hasn’t shot the ball very well as of late, but we know how capable he is of making shots,” coach Bob Huggins said. “He never really drove it to the basket until the end of last year and this year – he was really a catch and shoot guy – and I think he has expanded his game. He doesn’t do things that he’s not capable of doing very often. I think that’s the battle. Do what you can do. Don’t try to do things you can’t do.”

No. 20 — F Brandon Watkins | 6-9, 225, sr.

West Virginia forward Brandon Watkins (20) rebounds against Kansas State forward Dean Wade (32) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017.

West Virginia forward Brandon Watkins (20) rebounds against Kansas State forward Dean Wade (32) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017.

  • Only averaging 15.4 minutes per game, Watkins is averaging 6.9 points and 4.1 rebounds. He ranks second on the squad with 14 blocks.

  • He’s shooting a team-leading 64.3 percent from the floor. According to hoop-math.com, 51 percent of his shots are taken at the rim.

  • His uncle, Warren Baker, was a star player for the Mountaineers. He scored 1,556 points and was the only player in school history to lead the team in rebounding for all four seasons (1973-76).

  • Watkins contemplated transferring last offseason. Huggins told him to take a “little vacation” before he opted to return. His team voted unanimously to allow him to rejoin the squad.

  • QUOTE: “Brandon’s been working his butt off,” teammate James Bolden said. “He’s been in the gym late nights and early mornings. It’s showing for him finally. Coach Huggs is trusting him. It all comes back to trust with Coach Huggs.”

No. 23 — F Esa Ahmad | 6-8, 225, soph.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) collides with West Virginia forward Esa Ahmad (23) while going for a loose ball during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) collides with West Virginia forward Esa Ahmad (23) while going for a loose ball during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

  • After leading the Mountaineers in scoring for the first two months of the season, he’s in the middle of a slump. After scoring at least eight points in the team’s first 15 games, he hasn’t scored more than eight in the past four contests.

  • Throughout the season, Ahmad is averaging 11.3 points and 4.5 rebounds. He’s shooting 51.7 percent from the floor and 63.8 percent at the free throw line. He ranks third on the team with 25 steals and 12 blocks.

  • Against KU last year, Ahmad scored 12 points in 54 minutes.

  • Pronunciation: E-sa AAh-muhd. He’s started every game in which he has played.

  • QUOTE: “He can shoot, he can score, he can pass, he can rebound,” Carter said. “He can do everything we need. We just need to get him back running the way he was.”

WEST VIRGINIA BENCH

No. 12 — G Tarik Phillip | 6-3, 195, sr.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) gets up to defend against a shot from West Virginia guard Tarik Phillip (12) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) gets up to defend against a shot from West Virginia guard Tarik Phillip (12) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

  • Off of the bench (six starts in 19 games), Phillip is averaging 9.1 points and 2.9 rebounds in 22.5 minutes per game. He’s shooting 47 percent from the floor and 40 percent from deep, but only 60 percent at the free throw line.

  • A pesky defender, Phillip ranks second on the team with 30 steals and he’s blocked six shots.

  • Versus the Jayhawks last year, Phillip scored 23 points on 7-of-26 shooting with five steals.

No. 50 — F Sagaba Konate | 6-8, 250, fr.

None by Joe Brocato

  • Only averaging 10.6 minutes per game, Konate leads the Mountaineers with an astounding 27 blocks, which ranks seventh in the Big 12.

  • He’s averaging 4.8 points and 2.8 rebounds on 54 percent shooting.

  • Pronunciation: SAG-uh-buh Kuh-NUH-teh. The Mali native moved to the United States prior to his junior year in high school. He speaks three languages: English, French and Bambara.

  • QUOTE: “Play defense and rebound. I have to protect the basket and rebound the ball,” he said of his role.

No. 15 — F Lamont West | 6-8, 215, r-fr.

  • Redshirted last season. Averaging 6.1 points in 10.9 minutes per game. He’s shooting 17-of-45 from deep (38 percent).

  • West, a Cincinnati native, played in high school with former WVU standout Devin Williams.

  • His mother, Tonya (Kirk) West, was a four-year starter at Purdue from 1993-96. She helped the Boilermakers to the Final Four in 1994.

  • QUOTE: “I used to suck, to be honest. I used to suck real bad,” said West, who didn’t seriously play basketball until middle school. “Like, I wasn’t good at all. If y’all would’ve seen me back then, y’all would’ve never thought that I would be in this position I’m in right now.”

No. 0 — G Teyvon Myers | 6-2, 185, sr.

West Virginia guard Teyvon Myers (0) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017.

West Virginia guard Teyvon Myers (0) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017.

  • Averaging 7.8 points and 1.3 rebounds in 15.5 minutes per gmae. He’s grabbed 14 steals and is shooting 48 percent from deep (11 of 23).

  • A junior college transfer from Williston State College in North Dakota, West led the nation in scoring at the JUCO level, averaging 25 points per game in 2014-15.

  • QUOTE: “I fell like we all feed off each other,” Myers said. “We all give off positive energy.”

No. 45 — F Elijah Macon | 6-9, 240, jr.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis wrestles with West Virginia forward Elijah Macon (45) for a ball during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis wrestles with West Virginia forward Elijah Macon (45) for a ball during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

  • Macon has posted averages of 4.7 points and 2.8 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per game. He’s shooting 53 percent from the field and 61 percent at the charity stripe.

  • His mom, Renai, died two years ago after battling cancer.

  • QUOTE: “My first two years, I don’t believe I was always into it mentally, from family things to personal things and trying to figure Elijah out,” he said. “That’s pretty much what I worked on over the summer. A lot of self-evaluation of myself and what I need to do.”

No. 3 — G James Bolden | 6-0, 160, r-fr.

  • A 3-point specialist, Boldne is 11-of-26 from deep this season. He’s only taken a total of 35 shots, averaging 3.8 points per game.

  • His nickname is Beetle. He missed all of last season with a torn ACL in his right knee.

  • He was a three-time selection to the Kentucky all-state basketball team.

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Blue bloods with Bobby: Jan. 11

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) hangs for a shot between Baylor forward Rico Gathers (2) and guard Al Freeman (25) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) hangs for a shot between Baylor forward Rico Gathers (2) and guard Al Freeman (25) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

On the first day following the end of the college football season (and another title game classic), college basketball reintroduced itself with one of its biggest days of the season.

With three top-15 matchups (and of course, another Grayson Allen mini-controversy), it was easy to get lost in all of the hype. That’s where this blog comes in with the latest look at the blue bloods across the country. Here’s a look at the top 10 teams:

1. Baylor

None by Chris Stone

Baylor earned its first No. 1 ranking in program history and was destroyed in a 21-point loss against West Virginia in Morgantown. The Bears started slow and never recovered, turning the ball over a season-high 29 times — only two shy of a school record. "They just took us out of everything," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "We weren't overconfident. They just kicked our butt.”

Of course, this doesn’t diminish everything Baylor accomplished on its way to a No. 1 ranking. The Bears were a five or six point underdog heading into Tuesday’s matchup. Prior to the loss, Jonathan Motley was named Big 12 player of the week after posting back-to-back double-double performances. And just as remarkable is the rise that Scott Drew has brought the Baylor program within the last decade.

Record: 15-1. Next: Saturday at #25 Kansas State.

2. Kansas

None by Kansas Basketball

Stat of the day: Frank Mason is making 54.9 percent of his 3-pointers this season. He’s one made 3-pointer shy of qualifying on the national list, but he would rank second in the country. In his last three games, Mason is shooting an astounding 12-of-15 from deep (80 percent). Benton Smith wrote about KU’s 3-point prowess on Wednesday afternoon.

In a story from Matt Tait, KU coach Bill Self argues that the Jayhawks don’t deserve to be the top ranked team in the country following their 81-70 road victory at Oklahoma.

Record: 15-1. Next: Saturday vs. Oklahoma State.

3. Villanova

None by FS1

Villanova was expecting a dogfight against Xavier and it ended in a smack down. The Wildcats won 78-54, matching a school record with their 46th straight win at the Pavilion — their last home loss was in February 2013. “The annual Villanova ass kicking. I'm getting really tired of it,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said afterward.

The Wildcats held Xavier to 29-percent shooting from the floor, including 6-of-32 from deep. Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart both scored 20 points apiece. ESPN’s Dana O’Neil wrote a story on Jenkins becoming a more complete player this season, which has only made the guy who made “The Shot” even better.

Record: 16-1. Next: Saturday at St. John’s.

4. UCLA

After losing on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Dillon Brooks on the road at Oregon, the Bruins have responded with three straight wins, including a 14-point home win over Stanford on Sunday. Perhaps the only concern for the Bruins is a couple of second-half letdowns. It hasn’t cost them a win, but they’ve had to sweat at some points in games they should’ve put away.

Bryce Alford, known more for being a coach’s son than star player, is actually climbing up the school record book in career points. He’s averaging 16.3 points this season and could put himself inside of the top five of a historic program. “Those people who say those negative things about me, that I play just because my dad’s here or whatever, I’m not going to be able to change those voices regardless of what I do,” Alford told the LA Times in a story about his success.

Record: 16-1. Next: Thursday at Colorado.

5. Gonzaga

Gonzaga owns wins against Florida, Iowa State and Arizona, but there will always be those who don’t believe the hype until the Zags reach the Final Four. But perhaps, the toughest task to keeping their perfect season alive — the last unbeaten team in the country — will be Saturday’s upcoming matchup against No. 21-ranked St. Mary’s. They lost both regular season games against the Gaels last year.

The Zags earned a 15-point road victory against San Francisco last week, then had a game against Portland postponed because of a winter storm. The Spokane Spokesman-Review had a nice story on freshman Zach Collins, the next forward in a strong pipeline of talented big men.

Record: 15-0. Next: Thursday vs. Loyola Marymount.

6. Kentucky

None by Kentucky Basketball

There’s always a few SEC games that give the Wildcats some trouble and Vanderbilt nearly gave them everything they could handle Tuesday, before Kentucky pulled away in the final minute for an 87-81 win. Isaiah Briscoe scored a game-high 23 points while De’Aaron Fox added 22. "We still don't trust each other because guys aren't doing their job defensively, what they're supposed to do," UK coach John Calipari said.

The Wildcats added Hamidou Diallo on Wednesday, a 5-star recruit that was ranked highly in the Class of 2017. He enrolled at Kentucky and will practice with the team but is expected to redshirt for the remainder of the season. Diallo, who was playing at a post-graduate school, is eligible for the upcoming NBA draft, but all indications say he will play at Kentucky next year. Will this be a new trend for some college basketball players?

Record: 14-2. Next: Saturday vs. Auburn.

7. Duke

None by TotalProSports.com

Playing without Amile Jefferson (foot injury), the Blue Devils didn’t have much of a post presence in an 88-72 road loss at Florida State. That seems weird to say when a team has star freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, along with sophomore Chase Jeter, but none of them proved to be ready for the big stage. Giles and Bolden combined for five points and two rebounds in 14 minutes. "Obviously, size they can throw it up there and hurt you on the glass. They throw guys on you and wear you out,” interim coach Jeff Capel said.

As briefly mentioned above, there was another faux Grayson Allen controversy when he dove after a loose ball into Florida State’s bench, and he appeared to shove an assistant coach as he fell down. Apparently trying to catch your balance is the same thing as tripping now. Of course, Allen is going to be under extra scrutiny because of his tripping incidents, but it’s time to put down the pitchforks. Dennis Gates, the FSU assistant coach, said Wednesday that it was simply a great hustle play, “nothing more, nothing less.”

Record: 14-3. Next: Saturday at #14 Louisville.

8. Creighton

None by Creighton Basketball

After a 10-point home loss against Villanova on New Year’s Eve, the Blue Jays get another chance to make a statement — this time against No. 12-ranked Butler. Creighton rolled to a 14-point road win over Providence last weekend behind an 11-point, 14-assist performance from point guard Maurice Watson.

But beyond Watson driving the Ferrari that is Creighton’s offense and the scoring from Marcus Foster, the Blue Jays are receiving a lift from 7-foot freshman center Justin Patton, who is averaging 14.3 points and 6.5 rebounds. And it appears, from this Omaha World-Herald column, that has landed in the discussion for a potential lottery pick.

Record: 15-1. Next: Wednesday vs. #12 Butler.

9. Florida State

If it wasn’t for another Grayson Allen controversy, maybe people would take notice of this Florida State team, which is no longer under the radar. The Seminoles, who own ACC wins over Duke, Virginia Tech and at Virginia, won’t get to celebrate for long with a looming road matchup at North Carolina.

But in the top 10 rankings for the first time since 1993, the Seminoles felt that they had something to prove in their 16-point home win over Duke, their first sellout at the Tucker Center since 2013. "This one was personal for me. Ever since he did that, I've been waiting a long time to see him again," said Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who scored 21 points and was actually tripped by Allen last year. "It was good to finally see him again."

Record: 16-1. Next: Saturday at #11 North Carolina.

10. West Virginia

None by WVU Men's Basketball

Press Virginia came to life Tuesday, forcing 29 turnovers in a 21-point demolition over top-ranked Baylor. According to KenPom, West Virginia entered the game forcing opponents to turnovers on 32.8 percent of possible possessions, the highest number ever recorded. And that was before Baylor had 16 turnovers in the first half and West Virginia turned a close game into a laugher.

“Press Virginia is for real,” said Baylor guard Jake Lindsey. “They do a good job executing and knowing our personnel and they come at you in waves.”

Record: 14-2. Next: Saturday at Texas.

Three teams trending up
1. Minnesota: After opening Big 10 play with a one-point overtime loss to Michigan State, the Golden Gophers have won three straight, including road games at Purdue and Ohio State. They have a talented backcourt with Nate Mason and Amir Coffey.
2. Oregon: On a 13-game winning streak, the Ducks have opened Pac-12 play with wins against UCLA, USC, Washington and Washington State. Three of those victories are by at least 19 points.
3. Nevada: If you missed it, Nevada completed one of the biggest comebacks in college basketball history. The Wolf Pack rallied from a 25-point deficit for a 105-104 overtime win at New Mexico, their first win at the Pit in school history. Nevada trailed by 14 with less than 70 seconds left.

None by Nevada Basketball


Three teams trending down
1. Georgetown: The Hoyas beat St. John’s on Monday, but they opened Big East play with an 0-4 record, the first time they’ve done that since 1998-99.
2. Michigan State: Facing Penn State in Philadelphia, more than 200 miles from campus, the Spartans didn’t play well in a 9-point loss at the Palestra on Saturday with 17 turnovers. Tom Izzo called it an “effortless approach.”
3. Virginia Tech: After demolishing Duke on New Year’s Eve, the Hokies couldn’t take advantage of any of that momentum with blowout road losses to North Carolina State and Florida State.

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Blue bloods with Bobby: Jan. 3

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) splits the TCU defense on his way to the bucket during the first half, Friday, Dec. 30, 2016 at Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth, Texas

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) splits the TCU defense on his way to the bucket during the first half, Friday, Dec. 30, 2016 at Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth, Texas by Nick Krug

After a break for the holidays, college basketball returned with a weekend full of great games featuring top teams in the country playing against each other.

The conference season is underway and that means flurries of upsets, tough road games and separating the pretenders from the contenders. Last Saturday, five teams in the top-25 suffered a loss and thankfully for all those watching, it’s only the beginning.

Here’s a look at all of the top-10 teams in the country:

1. Villanova

None by Villanova MBB

If there’s the notion that 2016 was a terrible year, it doesn’t apply to Villanova. The Wildcats capped one of the best calendar years in college basketball history, finishing with a 38-3 record (and a national title) after a thrilling 10-point road win over Creighton in a raucous environment on New Year’s Eve.

Of course, Villanova has to lose at some point in the Big East (right?), but it showed why it’s the No. 1 team in the nation. First, the Wildcats have so many scorers with Jalen Brunson, Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart. Brunson led with 27 points against Creighton. Then there’s the defense that always tightens in the final minutes. Plus, the championship experience. "If you are not going to get rattled when the score was 24-14, then you aren't going to get rattled because they won't play in a tougher environment all year,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said.

Record: 14-0. Next: Wednesday at Butler.

2. Baylor

Baylor jumped the Jayhawks in the AP poll after opening Big 12 play with a 76-50 road victory over Oklahoma, which was playing point guard Jordan Woodard. But that doesn’t take away from how well the Bears played in their dominant victory — earning the highest ranking in program history. Of course, conference play is a different animal, but let’s remember that Baylor has a pretty nice resume with wins over Louisville, Oregon, Michigan State and Xavier.

Tom Keegan wrote in Monday’s column that Baylor and West Virginia are the biggest threats to end KU’s string of Big 12 titles. And if there was somebody who wasn’t surprised that the Bears leapfrogged the Jayhawks, it was Bill Self: "I anticipated that," he said. ”... That didn't surprise me at all. They deserve where they're at."

Record: 13-0. Next: Wednesday vs. Iowa State.

3. Kansas

Following a break for the holidays, the Jayhawks returned for a six-point road victory over TCU. Landen Lucas earned Big 12 player of the week honors for his 15-point and 17-rebound performance. I thought Matt Tait did a nice job of looking at the schedule over the next few weeks and determining the toughest stretches for KU.

And in case you missed it, Benton Smith had a nice roundup on former KU players Thomas Robinson and Tarik Black teaming up off of the Los Angeles Lakers’ bench. Plus the Ringer had a story about Josh Jackson's chances of becoming the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft are tied to his jump shot.

Record: 12-1. Next: Tuesday vs. Kansas State.

4. UCLA

None by GoDucks

UCLA’s loss against Oregon was one of those games that introduces the world into conference play. Sure, UCLA was the higher ranked team, but it wasn’t necessarily a game that the Bruins were expected to win. Actually, credit UCLA for putting itself in position to win the game before Dillon Brooks connected on a game-winning 3-pointer with 0.8 seconds remaining.

The Bruins followed up their first loss of the season with a 13-point road win over Oregon State. Lonzo Ball, the phenomenal point guard, scored a career-high 23 points in the victory with seven assists and six rebounds. He’s shooting the ball well after deciding to stop messing with his unorthodox shooting motion. The loss to Oregon was actually the first loss for Ball since his junior year of high school.

Record: 14-1. Next: Thursday vs. California.

5. Gonzaga

Gonzaga finished the non-conference portion of the season with a perfect 12-0 record and now the real hype train has left the station. In a story from ESPN’s Myron Medcalf, he asks the question whether the Zags can complete an undefeated regular season.

It seems like every year Gonzaga’s expectations grow a little bit and are better than before, which is a tough thing to do in a really successful program (outside of Final Four appearances). The Zags opened conference play with a 30-point win over Pepperdine and a 20-point road win over Pacific.

Record: 14-0. Next: Thursday at San Francisco.

6. Kentucky

None by Legion Hoops

After a ridiculously tough stretch against North Carolina and Louisville, the Wildcats head into SEC play as a heavy favorite to win the conference — and only Florida seems in position to provide much of a challenge. The Wildcats crushed Ole Miss by 23 points, led by a triple-double from Isaiah Briscoe (19 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds). Before this year, only one player in program history had recorded a triple-double. In 31 days, De’Aaron Fox and Briscoe have achieved the feat.

In the win over Ole Miss, the Wildcats showed how fast they can score and how dominant their offense is with such a talented group of guards. They scored 60 points in the first half and only turned the ball over eight times throughout the game.

Record: 11-2. Next: Tuesday vs. Texas A&M.

7. West Virginia

Remember when there was the idea that the Big 12 might be in for a down year outside of Kansas. Now there’s three teams ranked inside of the top seven in the country. The Mountaineers rolled into Stillwater and won 92-75 in their Big 12 opener. "They're very good, that was on full display,” Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood said. “Their press makes the game ugly, it's never going to be pretty against them.”

One of the most impressive things about the Mountaineers is they rank fifth in the nation with 91.8 points per game. But they don’t have a true go-to scorer. Esa Ahmad, their leading scorer, averages 12.6 points per game, but hasn’t scored more than 19 in a game. Of course, their “Press Virginia” style leads to a lot of different players scoring, but most of the top scoring teams in the country have at least one dominant scorer.

Record: 12-1. Next: Tuesday at Texas Tech.

8. Duke

None by jordan cornette

The big news that was released Monday morning was coach Mike Krzyzewski will be out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery following Wednesday’s game. He’s removing a fragment of a herniated disk. Jeff Capel, a former coach at Oklahoma, will become the interim coach for likely the next several weeks. For Capel, it could be a quick test whether he could one day inherit the team from Krzyzewski, who is turning 70 next month.

The news comes at a critical time for Duke, which was crushed in its ACC opener at Virginia Tech, 89-75. The Blue Devils didn’t have Grayson Allen (suspended, stripped of captaincy) in their loss, but they haven't been playing good basketball for the past few weeks. "We haven't played well for three straight games, and that's disconcerting," Krzyzewski said. "But that's the way it is."

Record: 12-2. Next: Wednesday vs. Georgia Tech.

9. Louisville

None by Jeff Greer

Speaking of tough schedules, the Cardinals are nearly finished with a slate that included home games against Kentucky and Virginia, a neutral site game against Indiana (in Indianapolis) and a road game at Notre Dame. The Cardinals beat Kentucky and Indiana, earning a 15-point victory over the Hoosiers on Saturday. Leading scorer Donovan Mitchell responded to his benching by scoring 25 points.

In the eight-point loss to Virginia, which never looked as the final score indicated, the Cardinals showed it’s much harder speed up a team to your tempo than slow one down. “Virginia seems to be our kryptonite,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said, who owns a 1-4 record vs. Virginia since both teams started playing each other in the ACC. In those four losses, the Cardinals are averaging 48 points.

Record: 12-2. Next: Wednesday at Notre Dame.

10. Creighton

None by NCAA March Madness

Creighton coach Greg McDermott admitted on Twitter that he was anxious prior to the New Year’s Eve matchup against Villanova — the first matchup of top 10 teams in school history. Of course, we all know that the Blue Jays fell a little short in a 10-point home loss, which was much closer until the final minute when Nova made some big shots and hit free throws.

Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel argues this Creighton team has shown something special, even in a loss against Villanova.

Record: 13-1. Next: Wednesday at St. John’s.

Usually we look at teams trending up and down, but with the new year beginning, here’s a look at some of the top contenders for the national player of the year:

Top players

  1. Josh Hart, Villanova: Best player on the best team in the country. Averaging 20.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He’s scored at least 18 points in his last six games.
  2. Lonzo Ball, UCLA: Mentioned above, the freshman point guard has transformed the Bruins into a high-scoring machine. He’s averaging 14.3 points, 8.1 assists and 5.7 rebounds.
  3. Luke Kennard, Duke: Everybody figured it would be Grayson Allen to lead the Blue Devils, but the sophomore guard has been the most consistent player for Duke. He’s averaging 21.4 points and 6.0 rebounds on a team full of top talent. He’s scored 20 or more points in six of the last seven games.
  4. Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: Leading Purdue to a 12-3 start, Swanigan has turned into one of the most unstoppable players in the Big 10. He’s averaging 18.5 points and 13.0 rebounds, which includes three 20-20 performances in his last four games.
  5. Frank Mason, Kansas: Off to an incredible start in his senior season, Mason is averaging 19.8 points and 5.9 assists, leading the Big 12 in both categories. He’s dished at least seven assists in four straight games.
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