West Virginia will play its last Big Monday game of the season this week when it takes on #10 Kansas State in Manhattan.
The Wildcats (20-5, 9-3) are tied for first in the Big 12 and have won five of their last six games, but their last Big Monday appearance didn't end too well, as Kansas beat them by 21. They won't be playing Kansas this Monday, though.
The Mountaineers (13-12, 6-6) are .500 in the conference and have won four of their last five games, but this has been a disappointing season so far. Those six wins may be just a bit misleading, too. They are 6-0 in games against the bottom three teams in the conference (Texas, Texas Tech, and TCU), but 0-6 against the top six teams.
One of those six losses came earlier in the year to this Kansas State team. That game was in Morgantown, and West Virginia was very close to pulling the upset. It ended up being a one-point loss for the Mountaineers, but they did have the ball as time expired. They just weren't able to get a quality shot off before the final buzzer.
This time around, they won't have home-court advantage, and they'll be playing a Wildcat team that has jumped well into the top 25. To pull the upset, West Virginia will have to play its best game of the season. The team is coming off of one of its worst wins of the year, if there is such a thing.
Texas Tech came into Morgantown with just two conference wins, but the Red Raiders took the Mountaineers right down to the wire, missing a three at the end of the game that would have won it. That kind of effort is going to result in a blowout at the hands of Kansas State on Monday night.
The Wildcats are led in scoring by Rodney McGruder, who puts up 15.2 points per game. Angel Rodriguez adds 10.2, while Thomas Gipson leads the team with 5.4 rebounds.
This is an offense that is ranked right in the middle of the conference in terms of points, but the defense is one of the best the Big 12 has to offer. The Wildcats are giving up just 59.4 points per game and have not given up more than 70 points in a conference win yet this season.
That defense could give West Virginia all kinds of problems. The Mountaineers score 66.3 points per game, but a lot of that has to do with being the best offensive rebounding team in the conference. Kansas State ranks second in that category. Shots have simply not been falling for West Virginia most of the season, though the shooting percentage has been rising in the past few weeks. The Mountaineers have passed TCU in field goal percentage, but still rank ninth at 40.7 percent.
Freshman Eron Harris is now the team's leading scorer with 9.2 per game. He has now scored in double digits in nine of his past ten games and has become a legitimate offensive threat for West Virginia. Aaric Murray is right behind him with 9.1 points, and he leads the team with 6.4 rebounds. Deniz Kilicli had an encouraging performance against Texas Tech on Saturday, putting up a career-high 25 points.
That was against Texas Tech, though. Kansas State will be a much bigger challenge.
The game will tip at 9 pm and will be televised by ESPN.