The Vegas odds makers are predicting a Kansas defeat at West Virginia on Monday night. The key phrase in that sentence is, "at West Virginia."
Playing the Mountaineers in Morgantown is like taking on a shark in the ocean. Sharks might be pretty easy to kill when they are on dry land, but are pretty much undefeated while swimming around their home "court."
In college basketball, there is always a big advantage playing at home, but that fact is multiplied in this case. Coach Bob Huggins has his Mountaineers playing a pressing style of basketball. They hold. They bump. They push. They do everything the refs will allow to force the other team into mistakes. What constitutes a foul changes from day to day and place to place. Bump Wayne Selden at Allen Fieldhouse and the chances are the whistle will blow. Bump him tonight up in that den of vipers known as WVU Coliseum, and it goes uncalled. Bill Self knows this, but it won't keep him from turning red in the face when the refs swallow their whistles tonight.
On Saturday, Self talked about the Mountaineer pressing defense in terms of a, "feeding frenzy," and he is, as always, correct. Coach Huggins wants one forced turnover, one uncalled foul, to turn into two, then three and four. His goal tonight: a complete Jayhawk meltdown.
Other teams have been able to knock KU off-stride this season, and that is West Virginia's game plan Monday night. It has to be. There is no other plausible scenario for the Mountaineers to win. They don't shoot well. They don't execute their half court offense that well. They live off turnovers, and if they can't force mistakes, they can not win.
Former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson coined the term "40 minutes of hell." His teams would press you from the moment you stepped onto the court. They intimidated people. (Including Bill Self, who had to play against Richardson's Tulsa teams.) West Virginia doesn't employ the 40-minute variety of hell. They use 48 hours of it. That's because a trip to Morgantown, WV, is actually a two-day adventure, involving a flight to someplace other than Morgantown, then busing through the gorgeous mountains to one of the ugliest arenas in major college basketball. Bob Higgins hates the long road trips to the rest of the Big 12, but he loves having those teams make the same long trip east.
No wonder Vegas has Kansas as an underdog.
The game tips off at 8:05 p.m.
Copyright 2015 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved