Game 18: No. 12 Kansas at No. 2 West Virginia – Preview and Prediction

Kansas travels to Morgantown to take on West Virginia in the first of its four Big Monday games this season.

Yet again the Jayhawks are coming off another hard fought, nail-biting victory after taking down Kansas State 73-72. They’ll now get their stiffest test to date in West Virginia in their house of horrors in Morgantown.

About West Virginia: The Mountaineers lost their first game of the season to Texas A&M, then ripped off 15 wins until Saturday when they blew a second-half lead at Texas Tech. During that 15-game win streak, WVU picked up quality wins over teams such as Virginia, Missouri and Oklahoma. The Mountaineers have been in the league since 2012-13 season, and they have owned Kansas in Morgantown with a 4-1 record. The last two meetings at West Virginia haven’t been close either. Last season WVU won by 16 and two years ago they took down No. 1 Kansas 74-63. With the struggles Kansas has experienced this season, WVU looks poised to continue their home success against the Jayhawks.

Game Info and Notes:

  • Monday, January 14th, 2018 at 8:00 am CT
  • WVU Coliseum, Morgantown, W. Va.
  • ESPN or WatchESPN App
  • There’s a four-way logjam atop the Big 12 standings with four highly-ranked foes at 4-1, including the ESPN Big Monday battle between No. 12/12 Kansas (14-3, 4-1) at No. 2/2 West Virginia (15-2, 4-1). KU and WVU are joined by Texas Tech (15-2, 4-1) and Oklahoma (14-2, 3-1) in the league standings
  • No. 2, West Virginia is the highest ranked Associated Press team Kansas will face since hosting No. 2 Baylor last year on Feb. 1, 2017, a KU 73-68 win
  • Under Bill Self (since 2003-04) Kansas is 18-4 against teams ranked in the Associated Press top five. KU has won the last six meetings against AP top-five opponents with four of those being Big 12 foes
  • Since the inception of the Big 12 in 1996-97, Kansas is 61-20 all-time on ESPN Big Monday (35-1 at home, 26-19 on the road), including 42-12 under head coach Bill Self (24-0 at home, 18-12 on the road)
  • Senior G Graham is the only player in NCAA Division I to average 18.0-plus points, 7.0-plus assists, 2.0-plus steals and 3.0 or fewer turnovers per game
  • Sophomore C Udoka Azubuike leads the NCAA in field goal percentage at 77.3 percent. He is 18-for-20 in his last three games. Azubuike is one of only three players nationally to shoot 70 percent or better
Mountaineers to Watch

Javon Carter – 6’2″ senior, guard

Carter literally does it all for the Mountaineers. He scores, rebounds, assists and creates turnovers. He’s right up there with Devonte’ Graham as one of the best point guards in the Big 12. This season he’s leading the team in scoring at 16.8 PPG, 6.5 APG, 5.4 RPG and 3.6 SPG. He’s having somewhat of a Frank Mason-esque senior season, as his numbers are up across the board. He’s coming off a 28-point performance on Saturday against Texas Tech. Expect him to be at the forefront of everything WVU does. If he is kept quiet, Kansas should have a good shot of pulling off the upset.

Esa Ahmad – 6’8″ junior, forward

Ahmad missed the first 16 games of the season after not meeting NCAA eligibility requirements. He came back Saturday and put up 18 points on 6-12 shooting, and also hauled in six boards. Ahmad is going to give a boost to what already is a very good West Virginia team.

Sagaba Konate – 6’8″ sophomore forward

After averaging just 10 MPG as a freshman last season, Konate is up to 23 MPG this season. He’s scoring 8.9 PPG and hauling in a team leading 7.8 RPG. He, along with Maciej Bender, make up WVU’s frontcourt presence. They’ll be responsible for guarding Udoka Azubuike

Prediction

West Virginia 78 – Kansas  64

AUDIO PREVIEW: LINK (go to 51:30 mark)

Even when Kansas has really good teams, they’ve struggled in Morgantown. This year’s KU isn’t up to par as teams of the past. It’s hard to see them flipping the script and changing their fortunes at WVU Coliseum. I see WVU’s press causing a lot of problems for the Jayhawks, especially if Devonte’ Graham gets in foul trouble. A loss here isn’t the end of the world for KU, but it definitely lessens their margin for error for the rest of the year.

Bobby Norell

My name is Bobby Norell. I'm from a small town in northern Indiana. I recently graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Sport Communication. Even though my diploma says I'm a Hoosier, my love for the Jayhawks has never wavered. They'll always come No.1.