Parallels Are Many As WVU Faces Kansas State
Absent big men around which the team was built. A pair of league losses to Texas schools.
Those are just two of the parallels as West Virginia prepares to square off against Kansas State on Wednesday night in the Octagon of Doom, as the Wildcats’ Bramlage Coliseum is known.
That foreboding moniker took a bit of a hit last week when the Wildcats dropped their league opener to Texas, but that is their only home loss of the season in a venue that is usually rocking when full. That might not be the case for this game, however, as students don’t return to classes until Jan. 22. There were, however, 10,000+ in attendance for the Texas game.
This game should have been a match-up between WVU’s powerful Sagaba Konate and K-State’s agile Dean Wade, but both have been felled by injuries. The Wildcats expect that Wade, the Big 12 preseason player of the year, will be back at some point, but this will be his sixth game missed due to a foot injury. Konate’s status and plans remain unknown, as he is still on crutches and in a brace while rehabilitating a knee injury.
Both teams have had to make adjustments, and those have come in different areas of the game. WVU has tried to feed Derek Culver, who is averaging 11 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest, but those results have been mixed as the Mountaineers struggle to pass the ball effectively.
Culver could move into the starting lineup against the Wildcats, which would give WVU yet another combination on its season list. No fewer than 11 Mountaineers have started at least one game this year, and when Culver eventually breaks in he will be the 12th.
|WVU (8-6 / 0-2) vs. Kansas St (10-4 / 0-2)||Date: Wed Jan 9||Time: 7:00 PM ET|
|Venue: Bramlage Coliseum||Loc: Manhattan, KS||Series: WVU 10-5|
|NET: WVU – 102 KSU – 48||TV: ESPNU||Last: WVU 89-51 (2018)|
|Twitter: @BlueGoldNews||Facebook: BlueGoldNews||Web: BlueGoldNews.com|
On Bruce Weber’s side of the floor, the Wildcats have been leaning on defense. While their pace of play helps keep scores low, they have also been very efficient, holding opponents to fewer than 59 points per outing. That’s not a new aspect of play for K-State, which has led the league in scoring defense twice in the past six years. This season, opponents are making just 39.7% of their shots from the field, and 29.7% of their 3-point attempts.
Offensively, seniors Barry Brown (G, 6-3, 195 lbs.) and Kamau Stokes (G, 6-3, 170 lbs.) , along with junior Xavier Sneed (F, 6-5, 220 lbs.) have been trying to pick up the slack in Wade’s absence. Brown and Stokes average 13.6 and 10.8 points per game, respectively, but combined are making fewer than 40% of their attempts from the field. Sneed, at 10.7, is similarly low at 37.5%.
West Virginia, not exactly blessed with great shooting itself this year, will likely have to win the game on the offensive boards. Derek Culver, Wes Harris, Logan Routt and Esa Ahmad have been good in this area, which is one of the Mountaineers’ better play phases this season. WVU has 205 offensive rebounds this year, which make up 35% of their rebounding total on the year. If the game comes down to a clankfest, West Virginia’s second-chance points could prove the difference.
K-State is wearing a uniform patch to honor former head coach Tex Winter, who passed away last October. He led the Wildcats to 261 victories, including eight conference championships, six NCAA Tournament appearances and two Final Fours (1959, 1964).
* * * * * *
With one non-conference game to go (vs. Tennessee on Jan. 26) WVU is facing its worst performance in such games since 2013-14. That year, the Mountaineers were 8-5 against non-league foes. A season prior, the Mountaineers had their most losses in the non-conference in the past 29 years, when they went 7-6.
WVU is 8-4 this season, but have to visit UT, which is 13-1 and ranked third nationally.
* * * * * *
Oddly, the two teams have both faced the same two opponents in league play to open the year. K-State scored just 47 points in a 20-point home loss to Texas, but played much better in a 63-57 road defeat against Texas Tech.