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Will West Virginia be able to get to the free throw line against KU?

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West Virginia's Deniz Kilicli (13) drives between Oklahoma State's Philip Jurick, left, and Marcus Smart during Saturday's game in Stillwater, Okla.

West Virginia's Deniz Kilicli (13) drives between Oklahoma State's Philip Jurick, left, and Marcus Smart during Saturday's game in Stillwater, Okla.

Team: West Virginia
Record: 9-10
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 107
All statistics from KenPom.com

3 Strengths

Offensive rebounding: Kansas has picked a nice year to be dominant on the defensive glass, as it faces yet another foe Monday that does a great job at hitting the offensive boards. WVU grabs 38.5 percent of its missed shots, which ranks 18th nationally, and leads the Big 12 with a 37.4 percent offensive rebounding rate since league play started. Unlike Oklahoma, which had a lot of players fare well on the offensive glass, the Mountaineers offensive rebounding comes mostly from two players: forward Deniz Kilicli and center Aaric Murray. Remember, KU shut down two elite offensive rebounding teams in Kansas State and Oklahoma last week, so we'll see if that trend continues.

Getting shots up: West Virginia ranks just 124th in adjusted offensive efficiency, but that isn't because of a lack of field-goal attempts. The Mountaineers turn it over on just 18.5 percent of their possessions, which is 68th nationally. WVU also does a good job of avoiding opponent steals, as foes come away with swipes on just 7.8 percent of the team's possessions (21st nationally). This appears to be a game where KU might not get many transition opportunities unless center Jeff Withey is able to start the break with blocked shots.

Getting to the free throw line: WVU has done a decent job of drawing contact offensively, posting the 109th best free throw rate nationally. Playing at a slightly below-average pace, WVU has averaged 22.5 free throw attempts per game. The Mountaineers have been especially effective drawing whistles at home, shooting 22 free throws against Kansas State and 31 free throws against TCU in its last two league home games.

3 Weaknesses

Shooting: West Virginia has been awful shooting both twos and threes, as the Mountaineers have made just 29.2 percent of their threes (311st nationally) and 43.8 percent of their twos (299th nationally). In case you're wondering, only 29.1 percent of WVU's shots are threes, so don't expect the Mountaineers to try to work around Withey by bombing away. Looking deeper, WVU has had big problems finishing shots at the rim, as it's made just 54 percent of its layups/dunks/tipins (NCAA average is 61 percent).

Fouling too much: WVU ranks 211th nationally in defensive free throw rate, with opponents averaging 20 free throws attempted per contest. That weakness hasn't gotten any better in Big 12 play, where the Mountaineers rank seventh out of 10 teams in defensive free throw rate.

Defensive rebounding: The Mountaineers grab 67.3 percent of opponents' missed shots, which ranks 208th nationally. KU has improved its offensive rebounding in Big 12 play (33.8 percent compared to 32.7 percent) but still isn't a team that relies much on it much for offensive production.

3 Players to Watch

Six-foot-10 center Aaric Murray (No. 24) is WVU's best offensive option. He makes a team-best 52.7 percent of his twos (59 of 112) and is especially productive at the rim, making 65 percent of his close shots. He does an above-average job at getting to the free throw line, drawing 4.7 fouls per 40 minutes while making 73 percent of his freebies. Defensively, he's WVU's best shot-blocker (69th nationally), offensive rebounder (188th nationally) and defensive rebounder (89th nationally). One of the only things holding him back is playing time, as he's averaging just 21.9 minutes per game.

Six-foot-9 forward Deniz Kilicli (No. 13, looks like a Mountaineer, see photo above) is a good rebounder but overall a below-average offensive player. He's best on the offensive glass (211th nationally) and drawing fouls (5.9/40 minutes, 89th nationally), but his production is dragged down by a poor stroke at the free throw line (34 of 67, 51 percent). The senior has struggled to make shots inside, shooting just 43 percent from two-point range and 51 percent on shots at the rim. He also will turn it over on occasion and is not a factor when it comes to shot-blocking.

• WVU fans have to wonder why 5-foot-11 guard Jabarie Hinds (No. 4) won't stop shooting. He fires up a team-high 27.1 percent of the Mountaineers' shots (252nd nationally) despite the fact he's the team's worst offensive player. He's made just 38 percent of his twos (42 of 112) and 26 percent of his threes (26 percent) while not even playing aggressive enough to get to the free throw line (just 29 attempts). Hinds' close shot numbers are astounding, as he's made a team-worst 38 percent of his layups/tips. Hinds does a good job of avoiding fouls defensively (69th nationally), but with as reckless as he is on offense, KU should want to keep him on the court.

Prediction

Like Oklahoma, West Virginia doesn't appear to have the personnel to change into a three-point shooting team to try to take down KU. Most of the Mountaineers' scoring will have to come from inside and at the free throw line, and while a one-game uptick shooting can happen, it's not something WVU should be banking on.

If the Mountaineers are to stay close and have a chance at winning, they'll almost certainly have to do it by drawing fouls and getting to the line. Doing that while also getting a couple early fouls on Withey would be a good formula for the Mountaineers to stay competitive in the first half.

Offensively, KU could have its transition points limited by another team that doesn't turn it over often, meaning the Jayhawks will most likely have to rely on half-court offense for their scoring. That hasn't worked out well recently for KU, which has struggled partly because of passive guard play, with Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe hesitating to drive past overplaying defenders.

With the way KU's defense has been playing, though, the Jayhawks should be fine even if they aren't great offensively, especially if Withey can stay out of foul trouble and KU can continue to keep its team fouls low.

Kansas 66, West Virginia 55

Hawk to Rock

I'll go ahead and double-down on Jeff Withey and predict that he stays out of foul trouble. WVU gets 54.4 percent of its points from twos (108th nationally), which means Withey should have plenty of opportunities to impact shots inside, much like he did against Oklahoma. I'll go with five blocks for Withey and say he helps the KU defense hold WVU to sub-35 percent shooting from two-point range.

Predictions tally
18-1 record, 211 points off (11.1 points off/game)

Hawk to Rock
SE Missouri: Perry Ellis (2nd in KUsports.com ratings)
Michigan State: Jeff Withey (4th)
Chattanooga: Andrew White III (10th)
Washington State: Ben McLemore (4th)
Saint Louis: Perry Ellis (7th)
San Jose State: Travis Releford (2nd)
Oregon State: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Colorado: Elijah Johnson (4th)
Belmont: Kevin Young (6th)
Richmond: Jeff Withey (1st)
Ohio State: Ben McLemore (1st)
American: Jeff Withey (5th)
Temple: Kevin Young (2nd)
Iowa State: Travis Releford (4th)
Texas Tech: Ben McLemore (4th)
Baylor: Jeff Withey (4th)
Texas: Elijah Johnson (8th)
Kansas State: Kevin Young (6th)
Oklahoma: Travis Releford (3rd)
Average: 4.2nd in KUsports.com ratings

Comments

Foster Coburn 6 years, 4 months ago

The Jayhawks have been slumping offensively lately and I think this is the game when the slump is broken. I'll say Withey gets seven blocks and we see a much better transition game. Give me 78-59 for the final score.

Jim Dickerson 6 years, 4 months ago

Jesse--- I see that Nick got the pic of the back to back signs at the OU game.. If you were responsible for asking Nick to do that, I thank you very much. If this is not aa copyrited photo, I'm going to have it enlarged and mounted on the wall of my man-cave

James McGuire 6 years, 4 months ago

Jesse, I enjoy the column and the stats, but always wonder how KU stacks up to the opposing team stats wise. Would it be possible to add KU's numbers to the stats you evaluate for a quick comparison?

And what do you make of Bob Huggins calling out his team for lack of effort this weekend? Do you think that will make much difference in this game?

James McGuire 6 years, 4 months ago

One clarification - not just stats, because you include some of those - but the national rankings for the stats you look at. Thanks.

Jesse Newell 6 years, 4 months ago

Here are a few above you might be wondering about:

KU offensive rebounding — 149th
KU defensive rebounding — 57th
KU 2-point percentage defense — 1st

James McGuire 6 years, 4 months ago

Thanks Jesse. I knew the Jayhawks were 1st in 2-point percentage defense, but not the others.

Bobby Burch 6 years, 4 months ago

Jesse — 

Any way you could shed more light on how players are evaluated by the Kusports.com rankings? Just curious if that is you issuing the points, if its a sports desk poll or a combination.

Thanks for the great coverage!

Jesse Newell 6 years, 4 months ago

I compile most of them by myself, though lots of times I've consulted Matt and Tom for help. On each ratings, you can look at the top for the name of the person who posted them, and that should tell you who primarily made up the rankings.

Jeff Coffman 6 years, 4 months ago

Wow, based on this summary, I don't expect it to be close. In fact sub-50 points for WVU wouldn't surprise me.

PSM 6 years, 4 months ago

KU 82 WVU 55. It's going to be a sLAUGHTER. We're due. Look for Elijah to score a season high.

Ben Kane 6 years, 4 months ago

we're in the minority tonight but i agree.

Robert Brock 6 years, 4 months ago

KU 58

WVU 52

Benny Mac high scorer with 15

Joe Joseph 6 years, 4 months ago

Gotta bad feeling about this one.

KU by 20.

DanR 6 years, 4 months ago

Agree. I'm... nervous. Rumblings of KU-Tenn, January 2010. KU by 16.

Andy Godwin 6 years, 4 months ago

The point spread opened at -9 and is now at -8 or -8 1/2. Given that KU has played low scoring games for most of the Big XII, the game could be tight unless the Hawk's offense kicks in on the road. On paper, KU looks to be better than 9 points, but these "muddy games" as Self likes to call them keep inferior teams close. Let hope that KU plays well on both ends of the court. Rock Chalk!

Ben Kane 6 years, 4 months ago

i feel a breakout offensive game coming. Kansas by 25+

rockychalky87 6 years, 4 months ago

Anyone else heard the rumor BIll Self will be wearing a miniature straw hat on the sidelines tonight as part of some charity? New units, cool hats? Talk about a BIG Monday! Ha!

Ben Kane 6 years, 4 months ago

last game was sneakers for cancer tonight is shoeless to not embarass all the fans there that have none.

Michael Luby 6 years, 4 months ago

Way to go Jesse!! Almost calling the exact score!!

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