West Virginia (20-5, 8-4) at Kansas (22-3, 10-2)
When: Monday, February 13th 2017
Where: Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, KS
Time: 9:00 ET | TV: ESPN
The West Virginia Mountaineers look for the season sweep of the Kansas Jayhawks when they visit Allen Fieldhouse on Monday night in a crucial Big 12 contest. The Mountaineers, who took care of Kansas in Morgantown 85-69 on January 24th, are two games behind the Jayhawks in the conference standings and one behind Baylor for second. Esa Ahmad led the Mountaineers with 27 points in the first meeting while holding the Big 12’s top-shooting team to 42% shooting and winning the battle of the boards 38-28. Coach Bob Huggins was not happy after Saturday’s 85-66 over Kansas State, citing sloppy play. The game also featured 54 fouls and took 2.5 hours to play. Junior guard Jevon Carter scored 19 points and the Mountaineers stifling defense held Kansas State to 34.8% shooting while holding a +21 rebound advantage on the glass, including 13 offensive boards. Carter is averaging team highs of 13.2 points, 4.4 assists, 2.6 steals and 1.7 3-pointers in conference games and his 5.0 rebounds is second most. Freshman guard James “Beetle” Bolden, coming off a career-high 17 points at Oklahoma on February 8th, contributed nine off the bench, despite playing a combined 18 minutes in those two games. Bolden is taking minutes away from guard Daxter Miles, who has scored just six points on 2-of-8 shooting in the last two games and has scored more than 11 points only once in conference play.
The Jayhawks are coming off a couple of hard-fought road victories after having their long home winning streak snapped by Iowa State on February 4th. They’ll try and start another streak against a team they struggled against in the first meeting. Kansas barely kept its one-game Big 12 lead over Baylor and two games over West Virginia with an 80-79 win over Texas Tech on Saturday as freshman Josh Jackson scored a career-high 31 points, including a critical free throw in the final moments of regulation. Jackson (16.6 points, 7.0 rebounds) also added 11 rebounds against the Red Raiders for his fourth double-double in five games. Frank Mason III (20.1 points, 4.9 assists) battled with the flu and foul trouble, fouling out with three minutes left with 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting and not recording an assist for the first time this season. Jackson led the way at West Virginia last month with 22 points and four assists while Devonte’ Graham (13.0 points) scored 17 points, but Mason shot just 6-of-16 from the floor for 15 points. The NCAA Championship Selection Committee gave the Jayhawks a No. 1 seed (No. 2 overall) in the first ever preliminary release of the March Madness bracket on Saturday morning.
Kansas may be winning games, but they haven’t look very impressive in doing so, failing to cover the spread in eight of their last ten games. West Virginia really looked good against them in the first meeting and I believe they will hang around in this one.
Pick: West Virginia +4.5