How Does WVU Approach Kansas, And The Rest Of the Basketball Season?
“One Shining Moment” is still the goal for many basketball teams in the Big 12. The iconic ode to the NCAA Basketball Tournament, and the many exciting big plays that make it one of the top events in sports, has been a part of the scene for decades. Over the past few years, West Virginia’s basketball program has had plenty of ‘shining moments’ — of both regular season and tournament variety. This year, though the Mountaineers won’t sniff that NCAA Tournament highlight feature, and will have to instead look back on regular season wins over Kansas and Pitt as the likely high points of the 2018-19 season.
With that in mind, what’s left for this WVU team? Will the Mountaineers go with a three-guard lineup, as projected in its pregame notes? Or will Bob Huggins and his coaching staff work with two players in the post, with an eye toward 2019-20 when a stacked big man roster could be the dominant feature of the team? Will head coach Bob Huggins begin coaching with an eye toward next year? Are their players who are competing for potential roster spots next season? Unfortunately, those are the most pressing questions remaining on the Mountaineer landscape.
One thing is for sure. A road game at Kansas isn’t the place to be breaking in new looks, but that’s just what WVU will be facing on Saturday, where one of its two signature wins serve as a backdrop for what is sure to be a determined effort from Kansas, which is fighting to preserve and extend its streak of 14 consecutive Big 12 regular season titles.
West Virginia’s win over the Jayhawks on Jan. 19 began a stretch in which KU lost four of six games. It has since righted itself a bit with a pair of wins, but its next loss in league play will equal its entire regular season total from a year ago.
|WVU (10-14/2-9) vs. Kansas (19-6/8-4)||Date: Sat Feb 16|
|Time: 4:00 PM ET||Venue: Allen Fieldhouse|
|Loc: Lawrence, KS||Series: KU 10-5|
|NET: WVU – 116 KU – 18||TV: ESPN|
|Last: WVU 65-64 (2019)||Twitter: @BlueGoldNews|
|Facebook: BlueGoldNews||Web: BlueGoldNews.com|
Like West Virginia, Kansas has suffered attrition this year. Center Udoka Azubuike was ruled out for the season due to injury in early January, and more recently Lagerald Vick, who is averging 14.4 points per game, announced he would take a leave of absence to address personal matters. Vick’s last appearance was against Kansas State on Feb. 5. Guard Marcus Garrett has also missed KU’s last four games with an ankle sprain.
Also, Silvio DeSousa has been ruled ineligible for the remainder of this year and all of the next in wake of the street agent and Adidas scandal that has touched the Jayhawk program. Still, the Jayhawks have managed to cobble together a pair of wins in their most recent games, albeit against Oklahoma State and TCU.
They have done much of that on the back of Dedric Lawson, who has 16 double doubles on the year, which is tied for fifth nationally. He’s the league’s leading scorer and rebounder at 19.4 points and 10.6 rebounds per game.
Opposite Lawson, WVU will send out Derek Culver, who has had a more-than-could-be-expected first trip around the league. The freshman is averaging 12.2 points and 9.5 boards of his own in Big 12 play. That’s an excellent battle to watch, especially if the game gets out of hand.
With a win, West Virginia would become only the second team to sweep Kansas in the Bill Self era. In 105 regular-season Big 12 home-and-home series, KU has 71 sweeps, 33 splits and has been swept once, by Oklahoma State in 2017-18.
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WVU has averaged four conference road wins per year under Bob Huggins prior to this season. The Mountaineers have no road wins in the Big 12 this year, with four remaining against Kansas, Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
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Esa Ahmad “completed” his WVU career with 1,039 points. Ironically, he stands just nine points behind Drew Schifino, the only other member of the WVU 1,000-point club to be dismissed from the team prior to the completions of his eligibility.
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With all of KU’s absences and suspensions, the Jayhawks have been putting a very young team on the court recently. Bill Self has started four freshmen in each of the last two games, and in KU’s 12 conference games, the Jayhawk freshmen have accounted for 45.2 percent of the minutes played and 41.8 percent of the scoring.