Here is everything you need to know about the Kansas State Wildcats and the West Virginia Mountaineers in our Kansas State vs. West Virginia Big 12 Tournament men’s basketball preview.
Game 1: No. 9 West Virginia (15-16, 4-14) vs. No. 8 Kansas State (14-16, 6-12), 6 p.m. CT, ESPNU
Season series (1-1): Kansas State def. West Virginia, 71-68, in Morgantown, WV, on Jan. 8; West Virginia def. Kansas State, 78-73, in Manhattan, Kansas, on Feb. 14.
Winner gets: a Thursday quarterfinal game with No. 1 seed Kansas at 2 p.m. CST on ESPN/2
Projected starting lineups
West Virginia: G Taz Sherman, G Sean McNeil, G Kedrian Johnson, F Jalen Bridges, F Gabe Osabuohein.
Kansas State: G Nijel Pack, G Mike McGuirl, G Selton Miguel, F Mark Smith, F Ismael Massoud.
Player to watch
West Virginia G Taz Sherman
Sherman earned All-Big 12 Second-Team honors from both Heartland College Sports and the Big 12 coaches after he averaged 18.3 points per game. Sherman has been remarkably steady all season. He’s coming off a big 25-point outing after the Mountaineers defeated TCU in the season finale. If the Mountaineers are going to pull off a win over the Wildcats, he’s the guy that will lead the way.
Kansas State G Nijel Pack
Pack earned All-Big 12 First-Team honors from both Heartland College Sports and the Big 12 coaches after he averaged 17.4 points per game and bettered his season average in Big 12 action. His 35-point, eight 3-pointer game against Kansas on Jan. 22 put him on the map in the Big 12. But he had a great season all the way through, and he enters the Big 12 Tournament with 92 3-pointers, eight shy of 100 for the season. Could he get there? Pack will probably need a couple of games to do it, and that means winning on Wednesday.
It’s been a rough season for the Mountaineers and, despite that, a couple of wins in Kansas City could score them a berth in the NIT. WVU’s win over TCU in the regular-season finale broke a seven-game losing streak that likely spelled the end of any hope of reaching the NCAA Tournament this season. Sherman is certainly capable of having a big game, but the Mountaineers need help from guard Sean McNeil, who has been inconsistent this season, and a quality game from forward Pauly Paulicap or Gabe Osabuohein wouldn’t hurt either.
Guard Markquis Nowell has sat out the past couple of games due to a hamstring injury. So if he’s ready to play, it’s likely he’ll flip back into the starting lineup for either Miguel, McGuirl or Massoud. K-State is on a five-game losing streak. Just a few weeks ago, the Wildcats were a borderline NCAA Tournament team. Now, the Wildcats are grasping at straws, trying to play well enough to help their head coach, Bruce Weber, keep his job. Pack stirs the drink, but Nowell is the Wildcats’ top passer and Smith is the team’s best rebounder. With these three, K-State can make the Mountaineers’ lives difficult.
Kansas State and West Virginia have never won the Big 12 Tournament title.
West Virginia 76, Kansas State 73
This is very scientific. The road team won both games earlier this season. The game is in Kansas City, which means it’s closer to Manhattan. So the ‘visiting’ team will win. Like I said, real scientific. Actually, the Wildcats are in a tailspin and the Mountaineers, with their recent win, at least have a smidge of momentum.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.