The Jayhawks are, once again, off to a strong start in the Big 12. They are currently undefeated in the conference, but they are entering a tough stretch of games for the next two weeks. Their first match is against West Virginia tonight. Kansas is coming off of a strong win against Texas, and West Virginia seeks to rebound after a heartbreaking defeat at the hands of Kansas State. No matter the outcome, it will be a good game. Nevertheless, Kansas will definitely have their hands full with a West Virginia team who is looking to bounce back in their own house.
In the last few games, KU has done a stellar job at sharing the ball. Against Texas, four of the five starters both scored double-digit points; Landen Lucas was the exception, but he made up for it with 14 rebounds. Off of the bench, Carlton Bragg had eight points in his 15 minutes played.
Keys to a victory:
Quick Start: If KU can get off to a quick start as they did against Texas, they will be in good shape to handle West Virginia with ease. They are a relatively quick team, but their size will prevent them from keeping up with the quick pace of the normal four-guard lineup that the Jayhawks present.
Spread the Ball: Aside from Frank Mason being scorching hot all year, Svi Mykhailiuk has been guiding the team through conference play this season very well. Mykhailiuk has scored at least 11 points in every Big 12 matchup but two (Texas Tech and Oklahoma). Svi is averaging 11 points per game with 3.6 rebounds. He is also averaging a career-high in minutes, playing just over 27 minutes per game this season.
Lucas is Key: Against Texas, Landen Lucas really struggled in the scoring department, putting up a dismal two points. If an easy victory is what the Jayhawks are looking for, they will need to figure out a way for Landen Lucas to get going. Lucas is the team’s leading rebounder, and he has at least twelve rebounds in three of the last four games.
Guard down low: In the last two games against Texas and Iowa State, Kansas big men have allowed 35 points to be scored against them, and even allowed Jarrett Allen to rack up 19 rebounds. Physicality is an important asset of Kansas’ game, and tonight especially, it will be important for them to use their size to their advantage and be as physical as possible.
Because West Virginia is coming off of an upset, they will most definitely put up a challenge against the Jayhawks. Like Kansas, the Mountaineers are lacking a bit in depth. However, keeping Nathan Adrian and Tarik Phillip contained will be huge for the outcome of the game. Overall, it should be a thrilling victory for the Jayhawks. I’ll predict 79-75, with Landen Lucas having a strong showing tonight, as well as Josh Jackson. This is the start of a grueling stretch for the Jayhawks, and if they want to be successful, they will have to start out on the right foot.