Before every KU men’s basketball game, The Star’s Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.
Saturday’s game: No. 20 West Virginia at No. 13 Kansas, 5 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse
Opponent’s record: 19-7
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 14
Point spread: KU by 3 1/2.
All statistics from KenPom.com, Hoop-Math.com and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.
▪ Offensive rebounding: West Virginia has the best O-board percentage in Big 12 play and also grabbed 37 percent of its missed shots in its first game against KU.
▪ Creating havoc: The Mountaineers rank second nationally in defensive turnover percentage and fourth in steal rate. Their best defensive trait continues to be an ability to force opponents into mistakes.
▪ Rim protection: Helped by Sagaba Konate, West Virginia has the best block rate in league play while also ranking in the top 10 nationally. Konate himself had five swats in his first game against the Jayhawks.
▪ Fouling: This is the biggest downside to West Virginia’s pressuring style, as the team’s defensive free-throw rate is the worst in the Big 12.
▪ Shooting: West Virginia is a below-average shooting team from both two- and three-point range. The team is built more on physicality than it is skill.
▪ Three-point defense: The Mountaineers have allowed a high number of three-point attempts to opponents. In the halfcourt, an outside shot is often the most efficient play against this defense.
3 Players to Watch
6-foot-2 guard Jevon Carter (No. 2)
Plus: Ranks third in KenPom’s All-Big 12 player of the year measure
Plus: Great passer
Plus: Ranks eighth nationally in steal rate
Plus: Strong outside shooter
Plus: An 88-percent free-throw shooter
Minus: Poor finisher at the rim
Minus: Shoots too many mid-range jumpers
6-foot-8 forward Sagaba Konate (No. 50)
Plus: Elite shot-blocker
Plus: Good rebounder on both ends, though defensive boards are his specialty
Plus: Draws fouls often and is good free-throw shooter
Plus: Rarely turns it over
Minus: Synergy lists him as “below average” defender in post-up situations
Minus: Not yet a go-to player offensively
6-foot-3 guard Daxter Miles (No. 4)
Plus: Overall efficient player
Plus: Great finisher at the rim for a guard
Plus: Above-average shooter in mid-range
Plus: Decent passer
Minus: Poor three-point shooter
Minus: Can struggle to get out to perimeter shooters defensively
It’s difficult to know how KU’s players will handle the many emotions that are sure to come Saturday.
ESPN’s College GameDay is in town. The 2008 national championship team will be honored, Cole Aldrich is getting his jersey retired and former player Frank Mason already made an appearance at Friday’s practice.
Add to all that the fact that KU desperately needs a win while trying to rally to get at least a share of its 14th straight Big 12 title, and you can expect that coach Bill Self will try to keep his players calm and focused in what should be a frantic environment.
As far as the game goes, this — like the first matchup — should be a battle of beauty versus brawn. KU has the team that can hit shots and look impressive while putting up points. West Virginia, meanwhile, would rather the game look like a bar fight, hoping that its toughness wears the opponent down.
For KU, getting three-point attempts will be key. That’s been a defensive weakness for West Virginia, and the Jayhawks rarely have an off-shooting night at Allen Fieldhouse; in fact, KU has shot worse than 33 percent from three only once in 14 home outings this season.
West Virginia has given KU problems in Lawrence each of the last two seasons, and the Vegas line would indicate this one should be close as well.
I still like KU for both the win and cover here. The Jayhawks should get a few more calls at home, and I don’t expect them to go cold from three in a place that rarely happens.
Kansas 78, West Virginia 71
Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Kansas
Hawk to Rock
Lagerald Vick was the pick to break out his slump in this location Tuesday, and one of his teammates should have a good chance to stop his own mini-skid against West Virginia. Svi Mykhailiuk has made just 4 of 22 threes combined in his last four games, but he should get open attempts Saturday in the building where he has been most accurate. Look for a 20-plus-point night from him.
Last game prediction: Kansas 86, Iowa State 75 (Actual: KU 83-77)
2017-18 record vs. spread: 13-12
Last four seasons’ record vs. spread: 71-55-3