Game 9 – No. 7 West Virginia at No. 3 Kansas – Preview and Prediction

The Big 12 did the No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks no favors when they made up the schedule this season. The Jayhawks were thrown into the fire last Thursday as they squeaked out a victory over No. 14 Texas Tech in Lubbock to open league play. Now KU turns their attention to the No. 7 West Virginia on Tuesday night. WVU opened up Big 12 play with a 5-point victory over conference bottom feeder Iowa State and its only loss this season is to No. 1 Gonzaga. The last time these two squared off at Allen Fieldhouse as top 10 teams was the famous KU comeback back in 2017. 

  • Tuesday, December 22, 2020, 8 PM CDT
  • Allen Fieldhouse – Lawrence, Kan. 
  • ESPN
  • No. 5/5 Kansas (6-1, 0-0) opens up Big 12 play for the 2020-21 season at No. 14/14 Texas Tech (6-1, 0-0) on Thursday, Dec. 17, at 6 p.m. (Central). The contest will air on ESPN.
  • No. 3/3 Kansas (7-1, 1-0) opens up its home portion of Big 12 play for the 2020-21 season hosting No. 8/7 West Virginia (7-1, 1-0) on Tuesday, Dec. 22, at 8 p.m. (Central). The contest will air on ESPN2
  • Kansas has won seven straight since losing its season opener to No. 1 Gonzaga and is coming off a 58-57 win at No. 14/14 Texas Tech on Dec. 17. Kansas’ seven-game winning streak is tied for the 11th longest in NCAA Division I. West Virginia has won its last four games after its 70-65 win against Iowa State on Dec. 18. 
  • With the win at Texas Tech (12/17), Kansas has won 30-straight conference openers dating back to the 1991-92 season, with 12 of those at home and 18 on the road. The last time KU lost a league opener was at Oklahoma, 88-82, on Jan. 8, 1991.
  • West Virginia will be the fifth ranked team Kansas will play so far in 2020- 21. The Jayhawks are 3-1 versus ranked foes this season and the three wins tie for the most against ranked teams this season, along with Gonzaga. KU is 1-1 versus top-10 teams in 2020-21.
  • Through eight games, Kansas has had five different players lead the team in scoring and eight in steals. This includes ties for the team high. 
  • Kansas has been ranked in each of the last 224 Associated Press polls dating back to 2008-09. The 224-consecutive weeks in the AP poll is an all-time record, surpassing UCLA’s 221 from 1966-80. KU holds the same streak in the coaches’ poll at 230.

Mountaineers to Watch

Miles McBride  – 6’2”, sophomore, guard

McBridge paces the Mountaineers in scoring at 15.0 PPG. He’s also been a much more effective three-point shooter than he was last year as a freshman, as he’s upped his 3PT% from 30.4 percent to 42.6 percent. McBride also leads WVU in assists and minutes at 4.3 APG and 33.1 MPG respectively. I’d expect to see Marcus Garrett garner this matchup.

Derek Culver – 6’10”, junior, forward

Culver is a load down low, as he’s averaging a double-double this season at 14.4 PPG and 10.9 RPG. This will be perhaps David McCormack’s toughest test to date. KU will need some solid minutes out of McCormack and Co. in order to slow down Culver. Last season, he threw up two duds against KU, scoring just 5 and 6 points respectively in each matchup, while shooting 26 percent. 

Jayhawk Pick to Click
Christian Braun – 6’6”, sophomore, guard

Outside of his 30-point outburst vs. St. Joe’s and 14-point performance against Creighton, Braun has been relatively quiet in the scoring department this season. He has been valuable in a lot of other ways such as rebounding, defense and hustle plays, but I expect Braun to play a difference on Tuesday night. I think he’s due for another big scoring game. He is one of a handful of Jayhawks that can light it up from three-point land. I’ll predict he’ll knock down 3-4 threes against WVU and make some type of little hustle play that could make a difference. 

Prediction

Much like last matchup against Texas Tech, I expect another tightly contested ballgame. While KU has played a slightly tougher schedule this season, WVU does have an impressive 16-point victory over Richmond on their resume, and their only loss is to No. 1 Gonzaga by five points.

KU will have their hands full with Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe. Culver has been the better player this year, but if you remember, Tshiebwe had a 17 point and 17 rebound performance against Udoka Azubuike in Allen Fieldhouse last season. Now more than ever will KU’s depth and talent in the interior be tested. I think David McCormack will have to play one of his very best games. They can’t have him getting in foul trouble early on. 

Like with every game, the Jayhawks are going to have to make shots. Ochai Agbaji seemed to get his mojo back against Texas Tech, as he went for 23 points and was 4-7 from three-point land. Agbaji, Braun and Jalen Wilson will need to come up huge. West Virginia, so far this year, has taken fewer threes than just about everyone in the country, and they’re not shooting a very high percentage at all (32%). If KU is making threes at an average clip, it will be hard for the Mountaineers to keep up on offense, unless they’re absolutely shredding KU with second-chance buckets.

Ultimately, the Mountaineers have cleaned up their typically-high turnover rate, and their defense remains really good. But the thing that separates these two teams is their ability to make shots thus far this year. Kansas has been one of college basketball’s best shooting teams, and they’re due for some positive regression by the basket. West Virginia is fouling less and rebounding as well as ever, but I’m not sure they can hit the shots needed to pull off a win at Allen Fieldhouse, a building that’s given them horror after horror over the years.

I think this one goes down to the wire, as they tend to do when these two teams matchup, but with it being at Allen Fieldhouse I’ll go with the Jayhawks and I’ll take ‘em to cover. Free throws late will put them over the number. 

Kansas 76, West Virginia 71

KU -2.5

AUDIO PREVIEW: LINK

Season Record: 7-1 (6-2 ATS)

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.