The Kansas Jayhawks (23-7, 13-3) have a tough task ahead of them as they try to finish out the Big 12 Conference regular season on a strong note. They must travel to West Virginia to take on the Mountaineers for an early 11 a.m. CST game Saturday.
The Mountaineers (16-14, 8-9) have improved as the season has progressed but have faltered down the stretch. They are just 2-5 over their last 7 games. They need a win over the Jayhawks in the worst way; a loss would certainly end any hope they might have to gain an invitation to the NCAA Tournament.
No Big 12 team has ever earned a bid with a losing conference record, and the NCAA has never given an at-large bid to a team with 15 losses. Even if West Virginia can beat Kansas, and they secured a 9-9 record in league play, a loss in the conference tournament would be their 15th on the season.
Regardless, the Mountaineers have their backs against the wall, and have no chance if they lose.
The Jayhawks are playing to improve their overall game, and trying to earn a number one seed. They have already wrapped up their 10th consecutive regular season conference championship, and are trying to stay sharp and focused for post season play.
Kansas will again be without freshman starting center Joel Embiid, who will miss his second straight game, and his third on the season, because of a lower back injury. If Tarik Black can play like he did against Texas Tech on Wednesday, the Jayhawks won’t miss their talented big guy.
Black scored a season high 19 points against the Red Raiders, hitting all 9 of his field goal attempts. He played with intensity and energy all game. His enthusiasm all season has been a plus for the Kansas Jayhawks.
He will need to bring it all of these things against the Mountaineers. West Virginia has two very talented players in Juwan Staten and Eron Harris. The Jayhawks will need to be at their best to stop these guys in their own building.
Staten is as good as any player in the league right now. He can fill a stat sheet with the best of them. He tallies 18.2 points a game, 5.9 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 1.2 steals. Harris 17.6 a game. Stop these to, and West Virginia’s offense will stall.
For Kansas, they must maintain defensive intensity, protect the basketball, and attack the rim with authority. They still struggle with intensity and consistency, especially on the road.
There are no more games in Allen Fieldhouse in which the Jayhawks can use to make themselves feel better about that lack of consistency.
The Kansas Jayhawks cannot let down, and be forced into a poor game at West Virginia. A loss this weekend will end all discussion for a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.