This year’s West Virginia Mountaineers have looked at times like one of the best teams in the country, capable of beating anyone and then at other times they seem to struggle against mid-level teams and talent.
At 10-1 going into a showdown with the #5 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in Cleveland, the Mountaineers are still very much a question mark. This team could easily be one of the best teams in the Big 12 Conference and make it deep into the NCAA Tournament, or they could completely collapse under the pressure of a grueling conference schedule and not even make it to March Madness. I believe it will be the former.
Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers are big and deep. Size and depth in college basketball are two of the most important factors to a team’s success. Coaching is also important and West Virginia has one of the best ever on their sideline.
Oscar Tshiebwe, Derek Culver, Logan Routt and Gabe Osabouhien give the Mountaineers some of the best interior depth of any team in the Big 12 and perhaps the entire country. This is precisely why West Virginia will be able to sweep the home and away series with the Kansas Jayhawks this season.
Kansas, fresh off a one-point loss at Villanova, rely far too much on their truly dominant big man Udoka Azubuike. Azubuike, a 7’0 Senior Center from Nigeria, is averaging 14.0 points and 8.4 rebounds per game and is currently shooting an absurd 80.5% from the field (35.4% from the foul line).
Azubuike has struggled to stay healthy for an entire season throughout his career, playing in only 11 games as a Freshman and 9 games as a Junior last year. Although currently healthy, his health is paramount to Kansas’ success this season.
Kansas’ lack of depth is startling for a team who always recruits well. Sophomore Guard Devon Dotson, currently averaging 19.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game, is playing out of this world, but outside of him and Azubuike, Kansas is really pretty average.
The Jayhawks have relied on Azubuike bullying smaller teams with his size so far this season, but he simply will not be able to do that against the Mountaineers. When West Virginia opens the Big 12 Conference schedule at the always intimidating Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas, they will be the bigger, the stronger, the deeper and more talented team.
The Big 12 Conference Championship almost always goes through Kansas, and if that’s the case this year, the West Virginia Mountaineers are on their way to great things this season.