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Kansas State Basketball: West Virginia Preview

Drew gives us the scoop on what to expect from the Mountaineers tonight.

Jan 6, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA;West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Josh Eilert coaches against the Houston Cougars in the first half at Fertitta Center. Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia University (5-9) - Ken Pom #133

Basic Information

Location: Morgantown, West Virginia

Type of School: Public Land-Grant Research University

Mascot: The Mountaineer

Head Coach - Josh Eilert

Seasons at West Virginia: 1 (this is his first season as a head coach)

Career Record: 5-9

Kenpom Style of Play

() = National Ranking per Kenpom

Offense

Adj. Efficiency: 104.9 (175)

Avg. Poss. Length: 17.3 (190)

Defense

Adj. Efficiency: 102 (111)

Avg. Poss. Length: 17.3 (190)

Tempo

Adj. Tempo: 68.6 (200)

Kenpom 4 Factors

() = National Ranking per Kenpom

Offense

Effective FG%: 45.8 (101)

Turnover %: 16.8 (125)

Off. Reb. %: 28.5 (207)

FTA/FGA: 35 (133)

Defense

Effective FG%: 48.4 (111)

Turnover %: 13.7 (346)

Off. Reb. %: 29.7 (185)

FTA/FGA: 21.8 (6)

Personnel

West Virginia Starters

Position Number Player Class Height Weight Previous Team(s) Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steal Block
Position Number Player Class Height Weight Previous Team(s) Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steal Block
Point Guard 1 Noah Farrakhan Sr. 6'1" 170 Eastern Michigan 27.2 14.2 3.8 2.2 0.8 0.2
Shooting Guard 3 Kerr Kriisa Sr. 6'3" 185 Arizona 34 9.4 2.2 5.8 0 0.2
Small Forward 21 RaeQuan Battle Sr. 6'5" 195 Washington/Montana State 27.5 21.5 5.5 0.8 2 0
Power Forward 11 Quinn Slazinski Sr. 6'9" 230 Iona 32.4 15 4.9 2.1 0.3 0.2
Center 13 Akok Akok Sr. 6'10" 225 Georgetown 18 4 4.7 0.7 0 1.7

West Virginia Bench

Position Number Player Class Height Weight Previous Team(s) Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steal Block
Position Number Player Class Height Weight Previous Team(s) Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steal Block
Combo Guard 2 Kobe Johnson Jr. 6'3" 205 N/A 28.4 7.5 2.8 2.7 0.7 0.6
Small Forward 22 Josiah Harris So. 6'7" 215 N/A 25.3 5.4 5.1 1 0.4 0.7
Power Forward 24 Patrick Suemnick Sr. 6'8" 235 Triton College 11.9 3.4 2.1 0.1 0.1 0.2
Point Guard 14 Seth Wilson Jr. 6'2" 220 N/A 22.1 5.1 2.4 1.2 0.8 0.1

Playing Style

Offense

It’s hard to get a read on this team with the return of RaeQuan Battle. The results haven’t changed that much; they’ve dropped 3 out of 4 (including a 66-65 loss to Radford) since West Virginia used the legal system to restore his eligibility.

I suppose they’ve gone from “bad” to “bad but have a guy who can score at least.” The biggest feather in their cap is an overtime home loss to Ohio State on December 30th. It’s their best template for victory against the Wildcats. Battle put up 24 points on 9-19 shooting, Farrakhan put up 19 on 8-18 shooting, and Slazinski put up 11 on 4-12 shooting. If they can get those three guys to play well at the same time, like they did in Columbus, they have a chance.

Battle is the key. Houston did unmentionable things to the Mountaineers in their last game because Battle went 1-9 and scored 4 points. Farrakhan went 4-12 for 9 points. Slazinski chipped in 8 on 3-11 shooting, and Houston won the game 89-55; the score doesn’t reflect the gap in play. I watched the first half of this game, and brother, I haven’t seen anything as horrifying on the basketball court since I coached a J.V. Girls team with nothing but freshman a couple decades ago. At least that team, despite a foggy understanding of things like dribbling, tried hard.

They like him at the top of the key with the ball in his hands. Sometimes they’ll involve him in the screen game, and sometimes they simply clear the runway and let him try to get his own. I see that a good bit with this West Virginia team. If you can stop their first action, things almost always devolve into a game of one-on-one with one of their guards. It’s ugly basketball that has thus far yielded ugly results.

They’re at their best in transition where the game naturally devolves into a one-on-one game. Battle is dynamic in the open floor and will throw one down on someone if given the opportunity. Farrakhan is a similar player but not quite as athletic. His tendency to turn the ball over is somewhat mitigated when he’s able to get out and run.

In the half-court, it’s all sort of generic pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop basketball with the occasional iso clearout when they like a matchup. They don’t do anything particularly well, but if their questionable shots start falling like they did against Ohio State, they can cause some issues. They have decent shot-makers on the team, and in theory, Kerr Kriisa is a gifted passer. There are some pieces in Morgantown, but they haven’t fit together... yet.

Let’s hope that continues tonight.

Defense

For a team that historically thrives on their defense, they don’t play good defense. What’s crazy is they’re one of the worst teams in the nation in turning teams over. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around that. It would be similar to Kansas State being one of the worst rushing teams in the nation in football. West Virginia’s brand is defense and high pressure, and they’re not turning anyone over. Tough times in Morgantown for certain.

Their interior defense isn’t terrible. Akok Akok, while having no discernible offensive skills other than dunking offensive rebounds, does block a decent number of shots. His 4 swats against Houston were the high point on the West Virginia roster. They’re one of the best teams in the nation at not fouling people (THESE ARE NOT MY MOUNTAINEERS!), so that’s...something (not sure what it is, but it’s something).

Matchup to Watch

RaeQuan Battle vs Everyone

Stop Battle, and this game won’t be close (assuming K-State isn’t atrocious from deep). He’s a tough, experienced dude. He’s also fresh after sitting out most of the season. He was a no-show against Houston, but you’ve got to assume he’ll be looking to crank things back up at home against the Wildcats.

Cam Carter is the best option, but he’s also vital to the Wildcats’ offense, and Battle is adept at drawing fouls. I think you’ll see Tang throw the kitchen sink at RaeQuan and see what works. Don’t be surprised if you see someone like 6’7” Arthur Kaluma on him on one possession and then 5’11” Tylor Perry on him the next. As long as he’s uncomfortable, Kansas State should win.

Predictions

Prediction

KenPom

Kansas State: 69

West Virginia: 66

Confidence: 61%

Drew

Kansas State: 65

West Virginia: 57

This is a weird early season “must-win” for the ‘Cats. West Virginia is terrible, and they’re coming off a 34-point loss. I think Tang has his guys ready to go, and they grind out a win on the road, utilizing a strong defensive performance and just enough offense to get the job done.

Things get much harder, real fast once the Wildcats get past this game. The only other team they play outside the KenPom top 100 is...ironically enough...West Virginia.

They’re not going to use this film as an example of “good basketball” at the College Basketball Hall of Fame, but as long as they take the dub back with them from coal country, it doesn’t matter.

*Note: I’m going to start getting these things out sooner.