Busting Brackets

West Virginia vs Kansas: 2020-21 college basketball game preview, TV schedule

LUBBOCK, TEXAS - DECEMBER 17: Guard Ochai Agbaji #30 of the Kansas Jayhawks shoots a three-pointer during the second half of the college basketball game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at United Supermarkets Arena on December 17, 2020 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TEXAS - DECEMBER 17: Guard Ochai Agbaji #30 of the Kansas Jayhawks shoots a three-pointer during the second half of the college basketball game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at United Supermarkets Arena on December 17, 2020 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images) /

Tuesday will feature a Big 12 showdown in primetime with two Top 10 teams between West Virginia and Kansas.

TV Schedule: Tuesday, December 22nd, 9 pm ET, ESPN2

Arena: Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, KS.

Conference play in the Big 12 is now underway. Headlining the schedule for Tuesday will be a primetime matchup between two Top 10 programs, with the West Virginia Mountaineers (7-1, 1-0 Big 12) versus the Kansas Jayhawks (7-1, 1-0 Big 12), in a crucial early-season conference showdown.

This will be the 20th meeting between the two programs. The Jayhawks currently lead the all-time series 14-5. Last season, Kansas swept West Virginia twice in conference play, winning 60-53 and 58-49.

The Mountaineers are still searching for their first road win at Kansas. West Virginia will enter Tuesday’s matchup winless during their first eight attempts on the road at Lawrence.

On Sunday, December 13th, West Virginia had a terrific game shooting 36-for-62 (58.1 percent) against Richmond. However, in Friday’s game against Iowa State, West Virginia went back to their shooting of old this season by making just 38.2 percent of their shots from the floor.

On Friday night, West Virginia was able to pull out a close 70-65 victory at home against Iowa State, despite being favored by 15 points. On paper, the Mountaineers should have not been in a close contest against the Cyclones. Iowa State lost to Kansas State to open conference play (Kansas State lost by 13 points to Fort Hays State University which is a Division II program).

However, as strange as this college basketball season has been, West Virginia found themselves trailing by nine points with about 16 minutes and 20 seconds remaining against Iowa State. The Mountaineers were able to come back to close out the game against the Cyclones. Junior forward, Derek Culver (14.4 ppg, 10.9 rpg), had 18 points and 12 rebounds, while sophomore point guard, Miles McBride (15 ppg, 4.3 apg), was able to chip in 18 points.

During their last game on Thursday, Kansas was able to squeak out a road victory 58-57 against nationally-ranked Texas Tech. Junior guard, Ochai Agbaji (15.3 ppg, 4 rpg, 2.4 apg), was the star of the game, scoring a season-high 23 points. Agbaji came in clutch for the Jayhawks, as he scored the go-ahead basket by cutting to the hoop behind the Red Raiders defense with 12.8 seconds remaining.

Sophomore forward, Jalen Wilson (14.3 ppg, 8 rpg), had a quiet game offensively against Texas Tech finishing with just seven points. However, he came in clutch defensively to seal the game for the Jayhawks. Wilson had a game-saving block on a jumper at the right elbow by Terrence Shannon Jr. to give Kansas its seventh straight victory.

With victories by single digits to Georgetown and Iowa State, West Virginia cannot afford to take contested jumpers against a team like Kansas. The Mountaineers are not a strong shooting team and have converted on just 42 percent of their shots this season.

However, during their matchup against Richmond, West Virginia was able to breakout shooting by creating space to make open shots. In order to pull off the upset, the Mountaineers will need to be able to hit their jumpers once again.

Sophomore forward, Oscar Tshiebwe (8.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg), will need to be a factor inside to boost West Virginia’s chances of winning. He has been off to a slow start this season. However, during his last two games, Tshiebwe has picked up his efficiency by shooting a combined 10-for-13 (76.9 percent) from the floor.

Defensively, West Virginia has been able to defend the perimeter at a high level, allowing their opponents to shoot only 27.2 percent from three-point range. The Mountaineers will look to stop the perimeter attack for Kansas, which is led by the Jayhawks’ top scorer, Ochai Agbaji. Agbaji is currently shooting 47.7 percent from three-point range.

Winning the turnover battle is also crucial for West Virginia on Tuesday. The Mountaineers’ full-court press defense gave Richmond trouble all game in early-December. West Virginia forced the Spiders to turnover the ball 16 times, which resulted in 19 points off turnovers.

During West Virginia’s last game against Iowa State, the Mountaineers found success forcing turnovers once again. The Cyclones committed 19 total turnovers, with West Virginia tallying eight steals.

This season, Kansas has struggled with turnovers, committing an average of 13.3 turnovers per game.

The difference-maker of a close matchup on Tuesday could come down to making shots at the free-throw line. Recently, West Virginia has struggled at the free-throw line, while Kansas has been able to thrive.

During their last two games, the Mountaineers are shooting 32-for-50 (64 percent) at the free-throw line. While the Jayhawks have made the most of their opportunities during their past two games and are 29-for-33 (87.8 percent) shooting at the free-throw line.

As of late, more players have been able to step up and deliver for Kansas. Within its roster, the Jayhawks have not seen much consistency in scoring. This season, there always seems to be one player who has been able to carry Kansas to victory. If the Jayhawks can find all around scoring consistency throughout their lineup, they can be a dangerous team to compete against in March.

Besides being held scoreless against Creighton, Ochai Agbaji has been the only player to be a consistent factor offensively for the Jayhawks. Texas Tech was able to give Agbaji all the space he needed during his last game to hit open jumpers. Agbaji is currently shooting 21-for-44 from three-point range (47.7 percent) and will need to have a big game to keep Kansas undefeated in conference play.

Rising Jayhawks star, Jalen Wilson, is having a terrific season and needs to be involved offensively for Kansas to make an impact against the Mountaineers. Wilson scored a season-low seven points against Texas Tech on Thursday, but he only attempted four shots. Earlier this season, Wilson totaled a career-high 23 points against Kentucky and Creighton.

Sophomore guard, Christian Braun (10.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg), has been cold from the floor recently and will need to make shots to help Kansas. Braun missed on all five of his shot attempts against Texas Tech. He flashed star potential in November scoring a career-high 30 points against Saint Joseph’s.

On Thursday, the Jayhawks defense was able to shut down Marcus Santos-Silva inside, as he was held to zero points. Junior forward, David McCormack (9.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg), will have a more challenging task on Tuesday defending inside against Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe.

Culver and Tshiebwe combined to shoot 11-for-15 from the floor (73.3 percent) to score 30 points for the Mountaineers on Friday.

The biggest matchup to watch on Tuesday will be between the two point guards. Kansas senior point guard, Marcus Garrett (8.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.9 apg), who was named the 2019-20 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year, shut down Kyler Edwards of Texas Tech on Thursday. Edwards missed all nine of his shot attempts in 37 minutes on the floor.

Up next for Garrett will be guarding the Mountaineers leading scorer Miles McBride. Earlier this month, the Richmond Spiders had trouble stopping McBride, as he was able to shoot 9-for-11 from the floor to score 20 points.

Both teams will head into Tuesday’s matchup with one loss each to the same non-conference opponent, which was No. 1 Gonzaga (Kansas lost to Gonzaga 102-90, West Virginia lost to Gonzaga 87-82). The top-ranked Bulldogs are averaging 94.5 points per game through their first four games this season.

Besides the opening game against Gonzaga, Kansas is allowing just 61.1 points per game to their opponents. Against other opponents not named Gonzaga, West Virginia is allowing 65.4 points per game.

Last season, the series between Kansas versus West Virginia was a battle of the defenses, with Kansas winning both games 60-53 and 58-49.

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For this matchup on Tuesday, there’s a good possibility that this game will be the result of another Big 12 Conference defensive battle between two Top 10 programs.

Prediction: Kansas 64, West Virginia 60