Over the past few seasons, the Big 12 has arguably taken the throne as the best College Basketball conference in the country. No team has been able to knock the University of Kansas from the top spot of the conference. Kansas has taken every Big 12 regular season championship since 2005, dominating stellar teams like Kevin Durant’s Texas Longhorns and Marcus Smart’s Oklahoma State Cowboys. Not even Buddy Hield’s prolific 2016 Oklahoma Sooners could knock Kansas off from the top spot in the conference. Kansas has been led by Mario Chalmers, the Morris twins, Andrew Wiggins and Perry Ellis in recent times and has always prevailed in the end.
The Jayhawks face a difficult road this year if they want to make it thirteen regular season titles in a row, as they are currently part of trio of Big 12 teams who rank inside the AP Poll’s top 25. Both Baylor and West Virginia have a chance to knock off Kansas to give the Big 12 a new conference champion for the first time since 2004. Baylor had the early season advantage to be that team as they carried an undefeated record and the #1 spot in the AP Poll for a considerable chunk of time, until they visited Morgantown and were dominated by the Mountaineers by a score of 89-68.
So why is West Virginia the team to finally end Kansas’ dominance? The simple answer: the press. Nicknamed Press Virginia, coach Bub Huggins’ squad has become the most feared defense in all of college basketball. Playing against West Virginia is forty minutes of non-stop pressure and traps all over the court. This team wants you to be as far out of your comfort zone as possible. Huggins started the press-oriented offense three seasons ago to make up for a lack of talent, and despite tons of fouls and many easy transition baskets given up, the Mountaineers still finished with a sweet sixteen appearance. Last season, the Mountaineers improved as ateam and earned a three-seed in the NCAA tournament. This season, the press has been a nightmare to other teams, as West Virginia has been forcing an average of 24.6 turnovers per game, which is about one in every three opponent possessions. As a team, they are rank in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency. West Virginia is the only team in the nation who ranks inside the top five of both categories.
West Virginia has the statistical backing to prove themselves to be one of the best teams in college basketball, paired with their 15-4 (4-3) record and #18 ranking in the latest AP Poll. Two recent heartbreaking losses has been the reason for West Virginia’s recent fall out of the top ten in the AP poll, where they were ranked #7. However, these two losses came to conference teams by a total sum of six points. Expect West Virginia to come back strong and be the team to finally knock Kansas off from the top of the Big 12, as well as compete for a national title come March.