LAWRENCE — No. 8 Kansas begins the second half of its Big 12 schedule on Saturday afternoon against West Virginia. As we wait for the tip here in Lawrence, here’s our usual five things to know about the matchup:
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
1. Offense vs. Defense: West Virginia entered Saturday ranked 27th nationally in offensive efficiency, and it should make for another solid test for a Kansas defense making incremental improvements in conference play. But even if the defense has an off day, the KU offense should be able to score enough to win at home. West Virginia’s defense (ranked 142nd in efficiency, per KenPom.com) will have its hands full against KU’s top-10 offense.
2. The league race: Depending on Texas’ result at Kansas State, Kansas, 8-1 in the Big 12, needs a victory to stay one game clear of the Longhorns, 7-2. The key for Kansas: Holding serve at home. If KU wins its remaining five home games, that’s at least 13 Big 12 wins for KU, and another loss for Texas, which still has to come to Allen Fieldhouse.
“I still think it's wide open,” Bill Self said this week. “ I don't think it's a two‑horse race at all. I think there's still some teams with four losses that have a shot. We were in this position last year if I'm not mistaken, 7‑0, and ended up having to come from behind to get a piece of it. It's still wide open.”
3. Surprising number: After struggling to hit shots at Texas and Baylor, freshman Andrew Wiggins now has the lowest shooting percentage (44 percent) of any KU starter. Wiggins, though, has hit 70 of 83 free throws (84 percent) in his last 14 games.
4. Surprising number II: Joel Embiid is shooting 61.6 percent from the floor, the best of any KU starter. But if you look at effective field-goal percentage, which weighs three-pointers more heavily, Naadir Tharpe has actually been the most efficient KU player on offense. His effective field-goal percentage is at 62.8% for the year, while Embiid’s is at an even 62 percent.
5. Huggins vs. Kansas: West Virginia coach Bob Huggins has taken teams to Final Fours and coached lottery picks. But he’s never beaten Kansas. He takes an 0-6 record against the Jayhawks into today’s game. That mark includes an 0-2 mark while at West Virginia.