No. 1 Kansas at No. 11 West Virginia
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WHEN/WHERE: 6 p.m. Tuesday at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, W.Va.
TV/RADIO: ESPN2; KCSP (610 AM)
ABOUT KANSAS (14-1, 3-0 Big 12): The first order of business for Kansas on Tuesday night: Brace for West Virginia’s physical and unrelenting press. The Jayhawks had 14 turnovers in last year’s 62-61 loss at WVU Coliseum, and the Mountaineers figure to bring plenty of energy in a raucous home environment. “They’re going to pressure us and we’re going to have to handle pressure,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. Kansas, of course, seems well-equipped to handle pressure. The combination of Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham has excelled in ball control and creating offense off the dribble. Mason has just 24 turnovers in 14 games, while Graham has 27 steals and just 14 turnovers. The Jayhawks, searching for their 12th straight Big 12 title, can take control of the conference race with a victory. The Jayhawks and Mountaineers are tied atop the league, and according to the projections at KenPom.com, Kansas will be an underdog in just two remaining Big 12 games. One of those games will be at No. 2 Oklahoma and one of them will be Tuesday; the projection system has the Jayhawks as a one-point underdog. Entering Tuesday, Kansas is 6-1 in games away from home and 2-0 in true road games. The schedule will soften after Tuesday. KU will return home to face TCU on Saturday, go on the road to face Oklahoma State on Jan. 19, and then face Texas at home on Jan. 23.
ABOUT WEST VIRGINIA (14-1, 3-0 Big 12): On March 3, 2015, West Virginia traveled to Allen Fieldhouse for the second-to-last Big 12 game of the 2014-15 season. The Mountaineers played without the services of star guards Juwan Staten and Gary Browne, but they still managed to build an 18-point lead before losing a heartbreaker in overtime. One year later, that loss appears to have set the tone for the 2015-16 season. The Mountaineers lost Staten, the former All-Big 12 point guard, and Browne, but they might be even better in 2015-16. The Mountaineers’ only loss came against Virginia, a top-10 team, on Dec. 8 at Madison Square Garden. Now the nation’s top team comes to town, and West Virginia can score a signature victory for the Bob Huggins era. For the second straight year, the Mountaineers have built most of their success on a suffocating press. WVU ranks sixth in the country in defensive efficiency, first in turnover percentage and second in three-point percentage defense. It also has recent history on its side. West Virginia and Kansas had never met in basketball before the Mountaineers joined the Big 12. West Virginia is 2-4 in the series, with the victories coming at WVU Coliseum during the past two seasons. The Mountaineers are 1-4 against No. 1 teams on their home floor, defeating top-ranked UNLV in 1983 while dropping games to Temple (1988), Massachusetts (1995) and Connecticut (1999 and 2006).