Getting to know: West Virginia basketball
No. 3 Kansas will be put to the test with a road tilt tonight.
The Jayhawks will travel to take on the Mountaineers in a rematch from the Big 12 opener. KU recorded a 60-53 in the first meeting on Jan. 4 in Allen Fieldhouse, but the second showdown should be even more difficult.
West Virginia (18-5, 6-4 Big 12) is coming off back-to-back wins over Kansas State and Iowa State. The Mountaineers have been tough to beat at home, posting a 12-0 record in the WVU Coliseum. West Virginia is also dominating the boards, pulling down a conference-leading 41.4 rebounds per game with a plus-8.7 rebound margin
Though 10 games into the Big 12 season, Kansas (20-3) sits alone in second place at 9-1 in the league. Baylor is leading the way with a 10-0 clip, while West Virginia and Texas Tech are tied for third with a 6-4 record against league foes.
According to KenPom, Kansas has a 53% chance of victory. The projected score on his site is a 66-65 margin in KU’s favor.
Kansas has a 13-5 advantage over West Virginia in the overall series. However, KU is 2-5 against WVU in meetings in Morgantown with the Mountaineers claiming five of the last six battles at WVU Coliseum.
Tipoff is slated for 6 p.m.
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BREAKING DOWN WVU
No. 1 — F Derek Culver | 6-10, 255, so.
The Jayhawks did a solid job of limiting Culver in the first meeting, but it might not be so easy the second time around.
Culver scored five points and finished with 12 rebounds in the Big 12 opener. For the season, Culver is averaging 10.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. Culver has reached double figures in rebounds in 25 of his 49 career games.
As a freshman, Culver led the Big 12 in rebounding in conference games with an average of 10.9 boards per game. His best game was a 22-point and 21-rebound outing against TCU in 2019, marking the first WVU player to post a 20-20 game since 1977.
No. 34 — F Oscar Tshiebwe | 6-9, 258, fr.
Tshiebwe caused problems for the Jayhawks last time out, especially in the first half.
That has really been the case for a lot of teams trying to contain the talented big man, however. Tshiebwe is averaging 11.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game as a freshman, and has been named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week on three different occasions.
Tshiebwe’s rookie campaign shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering his pedigree as a prospect. He is just the second McDonald’s All-American to ever enroll at WVU as a freshman. Chris Brooks (1986) was the only other player to do so in program history.
No. 10 — G Jermaine Haley | 6-7, 215, sr.
In last year’s meeting against the Jayhawks in Morgantown, Haley had the game winner for the Mountaineers.
Haley had his career-high in points with a 28-point effort against Iowa State, though he has been more of a scoring threat as of late. Haley has reached double figures in 21 of his previous 32 games for WVU.
This season, Haley is averaging 9.4 points per game and has posted an offensive rating of 112.6. Only Tshiebwe (113.0) has a better offensive rating than Haley for WVU.
MEET THE COACH
The Mountaineers are coached by Bob Huggins, who is 288-156 in his 13th season at his alma mater and 877-367 in his 38th season overall.
ONE THING WVU IS GOOD AT
Similar to Kansas and the other strong Big 12 teams, West Virginia has an elite defense. The Mountaineers rank third in 3-point defense (27.6%) and ninth in 2-point defense (42.7%) so far this season.
ONE THING WVU IS BAD AT
West Virginia hasn’t been efficient from deep or the free-throw line this year. WVU is shooting 30.3% from deep, which ranks 306th in the nation. The Mountaineers also rank 331st with a 64.3% clip at the charity stripe.
Kansas is getting 1.5 points on FanDuel’s Sportsbook as of Wednesday morning, despite KenPom giving a slight edge to the visitors. The atmosphere is going to be really good, and KU has obviously struggled to win in Morgantown for a reason.
But this defense has proven it is elite enough to win tough road games, and West Virginia doesn’t have enough offensive firepower to trust that side in this matchup. I’m taking the points in a KU win.
Prediction: Kansas 66, West Virginia 63
This year’s record ATS: 12-10