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Morgantown, West Virginia – When the 17th ranked West Virginia Mountaineers, 12-5 overall and 5-3 in Big 12 Conference play, host the #23 ranked Kansas Jayhawks (12-6, 6-4) inside the Coliseum today at 2:00, it very well could be a must win for the Mountaineers.

West Virginia’s upcoming schedule is absolutely brutal.  Following today’s game, they travel to play #12 Texas Tech, then the Mountaineers host the 9th ranked Oklahoma Sooners and the #2 ranked Baylor Bears, and then will travel to play Baylor again in Waco, Texas, before playing #6 Texas on the road.

This is perhaps the most challenging six game stretch that the Mountaineers have ever faced, and every game will be a battle to win.  If West Virginia loses today’s game, it’s conceivable that they won’t win another game until they play Kansas State at home on February 27th.

That would put the Mountaineers at 12-11 overall and 5-9 in the Big 12 Conference, which would essentially eliminate them from the NCAA Tournament.  Entering this season, missing the NCAA Tournament did not seem like a realistic possibility.  Now, it appears like it could absolutely happen if they don’t play well down the stretch.

Today’s matchup with Kansas could be the start of a tremendous stretch where the Mountaineers prove that they are among the elite in the Big 12 Conference, or it could be the beginning of a terrible month of February that leaves them ineligible to play in March.

To win today, the Mountaineers must better contain the Jayhawks’ three point shooting.  Back in late December, Kansas shot 16-37 from the point range and ran away with a 79-65 victory in Lawrence.  Since then, Kansas has struggled from the perimeter, particularly on the road, and that must continue for West Virginia to win today.

Ultimately, West Virginia is a far better, more consistent team than Kansas right now, and they should have no problem getting the win today.  A win to begin their 6 game Big 12 Conference Gauntlet will go a long way in preparing the Mountaineers for a deep run in March.

 



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