West Virginia to face Kansas in league opener
SHEPHERDSTOWN — While Kansas continues to look behind it for any dust being kicked up by the NCAA bloodhounds on its tail, the other nine teams in the Big 12 are focusing on trying to play well enough to be invited to the NCAA Tournament.
Kansas is always the lead story in the Big 12. It has won so many regular season races that dissecting the happenings in Lawrence is an annual rite.
But now it’s the NCAA that just might exact the blood from the Kansas turnip. Troubles in the nebulous and cloudy area of recruiting might bring sanctions against the fabled Jayhawk program. The NCAA could find Kansas did enough bad things to keep it out of the NCAA Tournament for this year and even beyond.
But the other shoe has yet to fall. And the Jayhawks have another roster full of talent. The two losses Kansas has this season were a one-point defeat to Villanova and a two-point loss to Duke. Kansas had nine wins in games through Dec.27. The Jayhawks host WVU on Saturday.
If Kansas slips on the court or in court, where will the next conference champion come from this season?
Texas Tech rose from the ranks last year and rode its upsets all the way to the Final Four. So far this season, the Red Raiders have played 11 games and seven of those were at home. In games of national significance, the Red Raiders beat Louisville by 13 points and lost by 11 to Iowa.
The team with the best record just two days after Christmas was West Virginia at 10-1. A loss to St. John’s at Madison Square Garden in New York was balanced by a 75-63 win over Wichita State, a team that already owns a win over TCU.
Baylor, at 9-1, has a take-notice win over Villanova and also defeated Butler by a point. Of the first 10 games the Bears played, only five of them were at home in Waco. Highly regarded Arizona fell to the Bears, 63-58.
An 86-66 win over Minnesota is Oklahoma State’s gold-star accomplishment. With a 9-2 record, the Cowboys appear to be chasing another NCAA bid.
A long list of games against mediocre competition is back on the Texas resume. The two best teams the Longhorns have seen beat them. Providence tamed the boys in burnt orange, 70-48, and Georgetown stormed past the Longhorns, 82-66.
Oklahoma would be a surprise regular season champion. A 83-73 loss to the Creighton Bluejays is one of three defeats for the Boomer Sooners.
Texas Christian has played 11 games with eight of them being on the home court. The most interesting team on the schedule has been Xavier and the Musketeers stopped the Horned Frogs, 67-59.
Iowa State has failed to distinguish itself and the home folks in Ames won’t easily forget the 84-68 loss to Iowa.
Kansas State is only 6-5, the lowest overall record among the 10 conference schools.
Seven of its 11 games were at home — not a good omen.
Through its 11 games, WVU has shown three scorers — Oscar Tshiebwe, Derek Culver and Jermaine Haley — averaging in double figures. As a team, the Mountaineers were making 67% of their free throws and 44 percent of their field goal attempts. The opponents were making only 36 percent of their field goal tries. On three-point field goal tries, WV has shot a league worst 31 percent, but its opponents have made only 25% of their long-range attempts. The Mountaineers are doing well in the rebounding department, leading the Big 12 with 42.7 per game, while the opposition has claimed only 33.7 rebounds per game.
Back to more pressure defense this season, WVU has committed 14.2 turnovers a game and the combined opposition shows 14.5 turnovers a game.
How will the NCAA vs. Kansas melodrama play out? Stay tuned for the name calling.