After another tough stretch of road opponents, KU is looking forward to home game. However, unlike many thought leading into the season, West Virginia is holding their own in league play. They are currently tied for third place with OU and behind Texas and Kansas. However, they do have four conference losses (two to OSU, and one each to Texas and Kansas State). Big 12 teams have been beating each other up in the middle of the pack. West Virginia is a high scoring team that shoots the three-ball pretty well, but they don’t play the best defense which should bode well for what can be a deadly KU offense when its weapons are firing on all cylinders. Hopefully guys like Wiggins and Embiid can right the ship in this one as both have had some games to forget recently. Here are a few things to watch for as KU takes on WVU Saturday in the Phog.
1. Can KU continue to create transition opportunities? When you look at this KU team on paper, they should be a team that scores a ton of points in the open court. They seem to be built for transition. That hasn’t really manifested itself much so far this year. Part of this is opponents tend to get back on defense quickly against this team, sending few people to the offensive glass. When a team doesn’t adopt that philosophy and tries to steal some possessions with second chance opportunities, like Baylor did last time out, KU gets more open floor looks. KU and WVU average exactly the same number points per possession. The difference is that KU tends to get more possessions per game. KU has looked better at pushing the ball quickly up the floor in their last few games. Can they push the tempo on West Virginia the same way? If this games gets into the 80’s or 90’s KU is a clear favorite.
2. Embiid bounce back? Is it just me or has Joel Embiid looked a little sluggish out there recently? It could be that the freshman has hit a little bit of a wall. He has also gone up against some size in recent outings versus Texas and Baylor. He seems to struggle at times when he isn’t the tallest guy on the floor.
3. Which Naadir do we get? As was discussed some last week, Tharpe has been somewhat of a Renaissance man for KU through the majority of Big 12 play. What Kansas could really use on Saturday is for their big scorers to get back on track. Wiggins, Embiid specifically could stand to have a bounce back game offensively after some shaky performances of late. Naadir is just the man to help them see it through. If he ends the game with 8 assists or so to 3 or fewer turnovers I think we will all be pleased with the outcome.