A Little Know-Howe: In Season of Wild Up and Down Hoops by WVU, Who Shows up against Kansas?

By Brad Howe on February 17, 2018 from A Little Know-Howe via Connect-Bridgeport.com

Just when you think all is lost, they bring you back.  It’s been like that all year for the West Virginia basketball team.
 
Think about the start of the 2017-18 season. High hopes, high expectations and then ... a 23-point loss to Texas A&M in the first game of the college basketball season. Uh-oh, it looks like this team won’t be as good as we thought.
 
Wrong.
 
Cue an incredible run of 15 straight wins and a number two national ranking. Suddenly, the Final Four was very much on the table. Knocking off Kansas as Big 12 champ for the first time in 13 seasons ... not only realistic, it was looking probable.
 
Hold on. What’s that? A run of five losses in six games? That doesn’t happen to a Bob Huggins team, right? (It hadn’t at WVU since the 2012-13 season when WVU went 13-19 on the year).
 
Okay, forget about the Big 12 title, let’s re-adjust the expectations.
 
After a stunning loss to a clearly rebuilding Iowa State team, it was hard to see a path back among the nation’s elite this season. Now the conversation had shifted to holding onto a decent seed in the NCAA tournament.
 
But, hold on. A 38-point trouncing of Kansas State showed signs of life. It was the largest margin of victory in a conference game in 60 years. Then came a gritty, gutty win on the road against an Oklahoma team that has suddenly started sliding backwards as well.
 
And other teams within the league were losing as well. Kansas had uncharacteristically lost three games at Allen Field House.
 
Is it possible a regular season conference title was still a possibility?
 
Let's re-adjust expectations again. WVU had put together two wins in a row with two more home games on deck. Oklahoma State came into the Coliseum as a difficult team to figure out as well (I realize that description fits every Big 12 team).
 
The Cowboys came to Morgantown having recently won at Kansas, but also losing to last place Baylor at home. At 4-7 in league play entering the game, WVU needed to respect the Cowboys, but could also expect to win. Especially at home.
 
Not so fast. West Virginia gave up 88 points (yet another example of the press not being as potent this season and highlighting WVU’s inability to guard) and wasted a career high 33 points from Jevon Carter.
 
In a season of peaks and valleys, West Virginia was once again residing in a valley. The sun was setting quickly on that shot at a regular season conference title.
 
But, as they have done countless times this season, WVU wasn’t quite ready to call it a day. An impressive bounce back win over TCU on Monday showed there’s still life.
 
And so we await today’s game at Kansas. A league title is a long shot, no question. WVU sits in third place, two games back of Texas Tech, one behind Kansas. But, games remain against the Red Raiders and of course, Kansas today.
 
Which version of West Virginia shows up in Lawrence. The Mountaineers have played Kansas as well as anyone in the Big 12 since joining the league.
 
Four straight wins over the Jayhawks in Morgantown until the debacle this year that saw WVU squander a 17 point lead. West Virginia had Kansas beat last season in Lawrence, up 14 with less than three minutes to play and somehow lost the game.
 
There’s no way to know what you’ll see today. I have long since given up trying to predict how this team will play.
 
I would be shocked if playing in front of that famed KU crowd didn’t bring out the best in WVU from an effort standpoint. ESPN's Gameday will be there. Allen Field House will be hopping.
 
If that doesn't get your juices flowing and produce a WVU team that plays with great energy, well ... close up shop.  These are the games you live to play. WVU may not win, but I would be stunned if they don't play with maximum effort today.
 
We know WVU CAN matchup well with Kansas (see the first half in Morgantown last month and last year in Lawrence). The real question is WILL they play well? Can they has been answered. Will they remains the key.
 
We find out at 6:15 p.m. tonight.
 
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Jevon Carter going up for a shot against Kansas, while Esa Ahmad looks to make his move in the second photo. At the bottom Sagaba Konate throws down a dunk in what would turn out to a heartbreaking home loss to the Jayhawks on Jan. 15. Photos by Ben Queen of www.benqueenphotography.com.


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