A top 25 showdown heads to Lawrence, Kansas Saturday. No. 3 Kansas hosts No. 16 West Virginia to open up Big 12 play for the 2020 season at 4 p.m. ET.
It's a matchup between the highest-ranked team in the conference, Kansas, and the Big 12 team with the best record, West Virginia. The two schools have split their annual home-and-home series in conference play in five of the last six seasons with the home team winning all of those games, except for Kansas winning in Morgantown during the 2018 season. The Mountaineers took the Jayhawks to overtime inside Allen Fieldhouse twice during that span.
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Kansas vs. West Virginia: Time, TV channel
Kansas takes on West Virginia at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, January 4. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.
Kansas vs. West Virginia: Preview, key stats
Kansas will open Big 12 play at home after playing its previous two games on the road at Stanford and Villanova. The game at Villanova left No. 1 Kansas with a 56-55 loss but the Jayhawks bounced back with a 72-56 road win over the Cardinal. In fact, just two of Kansas' previous eight games were at home with four of them being played on a neutral court.
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Home-court advantage means more for Kansas than it does for most teams in the country. According to kenpom.com, Kansas' statistical home-court advantage ranks sixth nationally. West Virginia is also stellar at home. The Mountaineers rank third, which speaks to why this matchup typically favors the home team.
Even last season, when Kansas' streak of winning at least a share of the Big 12 regular-season championship ended, the Jayhawks went undefeated at home.
West Virginia is elite at two critical components of the game – offensive rebounding and defending threes. Through January 1, the Mountaineers rank sixth nationally with a 38.0 percent offensive rebounding percentage and they're third in opposing 3-point percentage (25.4%).
That's not surprising given West Virginia's length. The Mountaineers' most common lineup over the last five games is one that features players who are 6-7, 6-7, 6-9 and 6-10. Even if they're giving up an inch or two to Kansas' Udoka Azubuike and David McCormack in the frontcourt, they'll have the size advantage on the wing.
Kansas made 9-of-22 threes (40.9%) against Stanford, so West Virginia is likely to pose a much stronger test from that standpoint.
On the other side of the ball, West Virginia is only shooting 31.9 shooting percentage from deep as a team but the Mountaineers will likely have available looks from three. Roughly half of the Jayhawks' opponents' shot attempts this season have been from behind the arc (49.2% to be exact), which is the fourth-most nationally. West Virginia will need to convert on a higher percentage of its 3-point looks than usual while living up to its reputation of aggressive defending if it wants to make things interesting against Kansas.
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Kansas does most of its damage on offense inside the arc. Just over 32 percent of the Jayhawks' shots are from three, which is more than five percent lower than the national average, and they shoot 58.5 percent from two, which is the third-best mark in the country. Like many teams this season, Kansas is prone to cold shooting nights from deep due to the extended 3-point line.
The Jayhawks have made four or fewer 3-pointers in a game five times in 12 games this season, including performances of 1-for-14, 3-for-13 and 4-for-18, as two of those five games resulted in losses. But they've also made eight or more threes in a game on six occasions, including 14 3-pointers on 46 percent 3-point shooting against Monmouth.
Kansas vs. West Virginia: Prediction
Kansas 73, West Virginia 65