No. 3 Kansas hosts No. 7 West Virginia looking for eighth straight win
Kansas coach Bill Self realizes he is prone to hyperbole when raving about the Big 12, to the point he feels as if he must speak to the veracity of his latest remarks.
"You know, we've said this multiple times, that this might be the best that I've seen the league. Well, I actually really mean it this time," said Self, who is in his 18th season coaching the No. 3 Jayhawks (7-1, 1-0 Big 12).
His opinion of what he calls a "monster league" carries as much clout as anyone's, largely because Self has guided the Jayhawks to 15 Big 12 championships, which exceeds the number of homecourt defeats (14) his Kansas teams have suffered.
The Jayhawks will look to capitalize on that home advantage again Tuesday against No. 7 West Virginia (7-1, 1-0) in Lawrence.
Considering Kansas owns a 30-year string of victories in conference openers, it might seem reasonable to assume the Big Eight and now the Big 12 have not really been stacked with great opponents. But to keep that streak intact, the Jayhawks had to outlast No. 14 Texas Tech, 58-57, last week on the road.
The Jayhawks, who have won seven in a row, showed they're capable of grinding out a win against Texas Tech, despite season lows in points, field goals, attempts, blocks and steals, and season highs in fouls and turnovers. They won with fewer than 60 points for the first time since their last meeting against West Virginia on Feb. 12.
Ochai Agbaji is coming off an efficient 23-point performance, which included 8-for-11 shooting and a basket with 12.8 seconds remaining after he broke open in the lane for an in-bound pass.
The game-winning hoop was the first by Agbaji at Kansas, though it's not as if he won't be thrust in similar situations in the future, because he leads the Jayhawks with a 15.3-point average. Jalen Wilson chips in 14.3 points and a team-high 8.0 rebounds.
West Virginia trailed at halftime and secured the lead inside the final two minutes in downing Iowa State 70-65 with 38.2 percent shooting to open Big 12 play.
"We've really had to grit and fight on our knuckles every game so far. We've never really just blown a team out of the water," said Derek Culver, who averages 14.4 points and a team-high 10.9 rebounds.
Miles McBride leads the Mountaineers in scoring (15.0) and averages 4.2 assists.
The 37-9 advantage in free-throw attempts that West Virginia enjoyed against Iowa State likely won't happen at Kansas, where the Mountaineers stand 0-8 all-time.
Defensive improvement will be key.
"We better start doing a better job," coach Bob Huggins said. "It's alarming how many points in the paint we give up every game."
--Field Level Media
Updated December 21, 2020