The college basketball slate is packed with action today as we 126 games on the schedule. Basically, every league that hadn’t already started conference play will kick it off today. Most notably, the Big 12 and SEC will start their league play seasons today. For our daily pick, we will head to the Big 12, where we will breakdown the game between Kansas and West Virginia.
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- West Virginia Mountaineers (11-1) at Kansas Jayhawks (10-2)
- Phog Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence
- 1PM PST
- TV: ESPN+
The Kansas Jayhawks kick off their Big 12 regular season slate today as they host the Mountaineers of West Virginia. The Jayhawks briefly spent time as the nation’s top-ranked team and are now ranked third in the latest AP Poll. Kansas has played a murderer’s row of teams already this season as they have the 7th toughest strength of schedule in the country, and they have a strong record to show for it at 10-2.
For West Virginia, the Mountaineers started the season out playing some light competition, but they have really picked up the pace recently, and they are one of the hottest teams in the nation. WVU has five wins over top-100 ranked teams already this year, including a huge win over top-five ranked Ohio State in their last game, in a game that was played in hostile territory in Cleveland. Bob Huggins will be looking to do something he has only done once at West Virginia, and that is knock off top five teams in back to back games.
West Virginia Mountaineers
You didn’t hear a lot in the national media about this West Virginia team until they upset Ohio State last week. Now this team has been thrust into the limelight and is a sexy pick to compete with Kansas to win the Big 12 regular-season title. But what if I told you this team was really good all along?
The Mountaineers are ranked tenth on kenpom for defense, a trademark of Bob Huggins coached teams, and they are just outside of the top-50 on offense. What has been impressive to me is their ability to win games away from Morgantown. They have wins over Pittsburgh, Northern Iowa, Wichita State, and Ohio State, all on either neutral floors or as true road games. All of those teams currently rate out in the top-75 nationally.
While the Jayhawks might not be tops in the rankings at the moment, when you look at the odds to win the 2020 national title, they are tied with Gonzaga and Duke as the co-favorites. At Kansas, they don’t measure success by wins or Big 12 titles, they measure success with national championships, and this team has Final Four written all over it.
Who Do I Like?
This is a really fun matchup. While I don’ think West Virginia is quite as good as all the love they are getting at the moment, this is a very talented team. The Mountaineers shot into the national spotlight by beating Ohio State, but they might have just caught them at the right time, as the Buckeyes have lost three out of their last five games after starting the season out 9-0.
When you look at the resume for Kansas, they have some question marks as well as they have nice wins over BYU, Colorado, East Tennessee State, and Stanford. But when you look at the teams they have played that are truly elite, they have played Dayton, Villanova, and Duke. They lost to Duke and Villanova and beat Dayton in double overtime in a game they trailed by eight late in the second half. Kenpom currently has West Virginia at #18, so they are on that level, and the Jayhawks need to be on upset alert tonight.
This season has been one of the most unpredictable in recent memory, especially up top. The number one team has changed a record six times already, and we are seeing teams in the top five lose all of the time. Just this weekend alone, we saw top five teams Oregon and Ohio State lose, and top-ranked Gonzaga trailed late in the second half to Portland before gutting out the win.
No team is safe this year in a year with so much parity, and if the Jayhawks take the day off, they are going to lose. But I don’t see that happening today. Bill Self never takes a Bob Huggins coached team lightly and the Jayhawks will be ready to play tonight. But when I look at the number of 10.5-points, all I need is for the Mountaineers is not to get blown out.
And I don’t think that they will. Kansas will likely take care of business and find a way to win this game, but I can’t imagine not wanting to take a team as talented as West Virginia, getting so many points. So, I will back the Mountaineers and hope the game stays competitive down the stretch. Give me West Virginia +10.5-points today in Lawrence!