by Zack Lambert
#3 Kansas at #14 West Virginia
Spread: West Virginia (-1.5)
Time/Location: 7:00 ET, WVU Coliseum, Morgantown, West Virginia
Kansas (20-3, 9-1)
Bill Self’s Jayhawks are playing some of their best basketball of the season despite the controversy that “marred” (insert eye roll here) college basketball a few weeks ago. Kansas’s ability to put the basketball in the hoop at a high percentage has helped them weather a tough Big 12 schedule, their only loss coming at home to Baylor. The pick-and-roll combo of Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike is one of the best in the nation thanks to Dotson’s incredible finishing and passing ability and Azubuike’s luxury of size. Self has also been blessed with players who buy in on defense this season which makes Kansas even more of a juggernaut than usual. They’re one of the top teams in the nation at shutting down scorers which is a scary notion given their depth and athleticism.
West Virginia (18-5, 6-4)
West Virginia, unlike Kansas, has been playing some of their worst basketball of the season over the past couple of weeks. They’ve dropped three of their last seven, but all of the games have been away. It’s incredibly difficult to win in Morgantown which gives this game a bit of a puzzling look to it. The Mountaineers have a deep lineup of versatile and dedicated players who play at the command of mastermind Bob Huggins. West Virginia can win by both slowing the game down or outscoring you, but they like to take the latter option at home. As past West Virginia teams have been traditionally defensive-minded, this one brings a different feel. They still don’t utilize the three-point line very often, but this team can outlast nearly anyone in any type of basketball game which should scare both Kansas and teams down the road. The game plan is very fluid.
Analysis and Pick
With all that talk about defense for both sides you might think I would pick the under. With all the talk about Kansas playing great but WVU being solid at home, you might not have any idea what to do about the spread. That’s fair. Let’s start with the points. Yes, the defense has been stellar and yes both teams have the ability to outlast opponents in low-scoring affairs, but West Virginia is a different animal at home and Kansas can flat out score the ball. The way to beat West Virginia is by punching them in the mouth at the start of the game and refusing to relinquish the lead. Points will flow tonight so take the over.
As for the spread, that’s a tough call. I won’t be betting this number because West Virginia has been volatile and we don’t know which version we’ll get. Kansas plays great defense and that can force the Mountaineers to play a game they don’t like. But I’d be a fool to bet against them at home. That crowd is incredibly tense and they bring the atmosphere every night. Take West Virginia to cover the spread.