Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins leads the Jayhawks in scoring at 15 points per game as West Virginia visits Allen Fieldhouse.

 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Still armed with only nine scholarship players and carrying a string of 16 straight losses to ranked teams away from home, is West Virginia—even in its current rejuvenated state—capable of taking down an elite Kansas team in Lawrence?

“Win with no fear,” Bob Huggins said Friday. “That’s the attitude we have here.”

For years, the Mountaineers coach has impressed upon his teams at Cincinnati, K-State and now WVU that road underdogs have every right to expect a win as do the home favorites. And in the case of Saturday’s game at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks, rather appropriately, are sizable favorites. As in two-touchdown favorites.

Ranked No. 8 in the AP and No. 1 in the RPI, Kansas (18-5, 8-1) has won 110 consecutive home games against unranked visitors, and West Virginia (14-9, 6-4) stands to become the 111th barring a monumental surprise.

Then again, WVU has redirected its season and repaired its psyche with three consecutive Big 12 victories, perhaps equipping it to better handle what Kansas will bring.

“I think we are more prepared now,” Huggins said. “We have to control the game as best we possibly can. Make sure we don’t give them runout dunks and try to keep it manageable.”

Controlling the game begins with point guard Juwan Staten continuing what he has done all season—breaking down defenses with penetration, scoring at the rim acrobatically, pitching to shooters when the defense implodes, and accomplishing all this without turnovers.

With Staten vs. Naadir Thorpe seemingly the only positional matchup in WVU’s favor, the rest of the Mountaineers must out-perform their metrics to pull off an upset. That’s a steep order considering the problems presented by the Jayhawks’ freshmen phenoms Andrew Wiggins, 7-footer Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden Jr.

“The No. 1 pick in the draft, the No. 2 pick in the draft, and oh by the way, the other guy on the front line was a McDonald’s All-American,” Huggins said. “They’re very talented.

“When you look at, where are the weaknesses? They’ve got really good players and they’ve got lots of them.”

SCOUTING KANSAS
Tipoff: Saturday, 4 p.m. in Lawrence, Kan. (ESPN)
Records: The Jayhawks (18-5, 8-1) have taken some dents from the nation’s toughest schedule, losing at Florida, Colorado and Texas, and on a neural court to Villanova. But Kansas also has eight top-50 wins to its credit, including Duke, New Mexico and a sweep of Iowa State. KU is 9-1 at home, a mark sullied only by a 61-57 loss to San Diego State on Jan. 5.  … The Mountaineers (14-9, 6-4) survived a wild second half against 21st-ranked Oklahoma—losing a 14-point lead before getting even on an Eron Harris 3 late—before eventually winning 91-86 in overtime.
RPIs: Kansas is No. 1 and WVU is No. 72.
Coach: Bill Self on Friday was labeled a Hall-of-Famer by the man he’ll be coaching against Saturday, ad with good reason, At age 51, Self has the best chance of anyone in the profession to challenge Coach K’s mountainous win total. He’s 524-169 overall, having taken three schools to a total of seven Elite Eights, including Tulsa, where he averaged nearly 25 wins in three seasons. His teams have been part of 15 consecutive NCAA tournaments and two Final Fours, with the 2008 national title representing the apex.
Kansas’ top players: Oddsmakers dramatically revamped KU’s odds of reaching the Final Four when Wiggins committed to Kansas over Kenucky, North Carolina and Florida State last May. Labeled a once-in-a-generation talent, Wiggins (15.9 points, 6.0 rebounds) has been stellar at times—see 22 points vs. Duke, 27 vs. Florida and 29 vs. Iowa State. Yet he remains a freshman, witness his seven-point, 2-of-12 shooting night in last week’s 81-69 loss at Texas. … The Cameroon native Embiid, who could trump Wiggins as the No. 1 pick, averages 10.9 points and 7.7 rebounds. He’s still raw, having started playing hoops only three years ago, but look polished enough in blocking eight Oklahoma State shots on Jan. 18. … Sophomore forward Perry Ellis (13.2 points, 6.7 rebounds) gets overlooked, but he’s a winner. … Selden (10.2 points) plays nearly 29 minutes a game.
WVU roster notes: Eron Harris made 6-of-11 from 3-point against Oklahoma and stands second in the Big 12 at 2.78 makes per game. He’s third in the conference in scoring (17.5).  … Juwan Staten ranks second in the Big 12 in scoring (18.1), while leading in assists (5.96) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.85). After playing 45 minutes against Oklahoma, he’s averaging a league-high 37.3 per game.
Line: Kansas favored by 14.
Prediction: Kansas 83-66
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Comments

  • Aaron

    Foul trouble and legs will be the key today. If WVU can maintain their tempo, hit some 3's, rebound and stay out of foul trouble, they have a good chance of keeping the game competitive.

    If not, well, it could be a long day...

  • DNEcowboy

    Tough opponent today for sure. Play hard, play smart, and play with pride! LETS GOOOOOOO!

  • John S. Shackelford

    I have been in phog allen and the students are right down on top of you. If a player eats a hot dog, one of the fans could hand him the mustard.

    In order to win, WVU must end this routine of scoring droughts. Zero points in five possessions will get you beat. They are apparently the only team in the Big 12 that does this. Looking at it, our guards are going to have trouble penetrating because of Kansas's size down low. That play may be out. If we can run and convert and force Kansas to downsize its front line for more quickness. that might be our best chance for winning. Make Kansas turn it over some will help. Our three point shooters are going to good screens to produce. If they play zone maybe that could help us.

  • mad hatter

    i think wvu will shock the world today, with a huge take down at kansas.
    no doubt we have made vast improvements this season, huggins is a HOF coach , and we should always bow down when he enters the room.
    Today will show the world just how great a coach he is, as if we needed proof.
    though we're a little out manned, we will show our true colors and win convincingly..
    easy win today,,,,wvu 85 ku 77

  • jay zoom

    wonder if Huggins is going to cry about the travel time if they get their clocks cleaned. if there is not a lapse of 6 or 7 minutes in scoring as sometimes is norm they can make it a game. offensive rebounds could decide it. debo has to shine

  • Shadow

    There is nothing like being an underdog that brings out the best in young men. I hope today is a good example of this theory.

  • wvman75

    Meanwhile, Marsha can't beat Southern Mississippi Community College....
    lol

  • Alex

    I am pulling for Harris especially to have a good game . Staten is going to be himself. If you notice Harris is the only three-point shooter that has a very low release on his shot, and KU has a very tall team and if he stays back in NBA range and shoots he could have a great day with the threes. It's going to be very interesting. Another thing I always keep an eye on is the officiating I just hope we get a fair shake. Not just on foul calling but inbound, outbound , traveling, Who was last to touch the ball. The timing of things like that can mean a great deal and how the game goes..

    • mad hatter

      the refs will be out to get us this game, that's for sure,,,course the refs have been calling bad calls against us this season, and last, they just don't like us , and the big 12 has put out a bounty on wvu bb players so we always have a hard time beating the other team plus the refs.

      • Steve

        Your jealousy and the fact that you hate it that WVU is doing much better than you predicted or had hoped is really starting to show in your posts.

        The name mad hatter is very befitting of you. Sorry to hear that your beloved herd lost again last night.

        • mad hatter

          i root for all wv teams except when marsha plays wvu, then it's all wvu, but seriously shawn,,,,,, well said sir

  • The Wisetalker

    If WVU loses by 19 points or less, it will be a moral victory...however this could be a beat down of epic proportions if things get out of hand..

    The other teams could make trouble for us if they win.

    • mad hatter

      moral wins r as good as pts. wins,,, i think my calculation is that we have 3 moral wins so far this season,,, it's the refs that kills us

  • Low Rider

    I don't put much stock in moral victories, but if WVU can finish within 10 of Kansas on the road it will give us confidence coming home to Iowa State on Monday.

    There is a reason Kansas is #1 in the RPI, they are big and fast, and never lose at home. If the Mountaineer play hard and don't give up if they get down by a few buckets, the game can be competitive.

  • Alex

    As of now the game has not been played, I am optimistic about things I think there is a touch of hope we can pull this game out . Just saying we haven't lost it yet,not saying we will win.. Just a mountaineer fan always wants the best for WVU

  • cummjl

    go moo u big larry and william

  • Big Larry

    Just a bunch of lies. That's all this is.

  • Big Larry

    Billy, your a dumb liar.

    • Billy

      WOW Big Larry, you hurt my feelings. How did I lie. I can't afford Mt Dew so I drink Kool aid. WE down here in the southern part of the state call it Mt dew aid. See now you have made me admit I have to drink the kool aid. You hurt my feelings twice.

  • Billy

    I guess maybe a good old jug of kool aid ought to get us off to a famous start.