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March 8, 2014
Postseason on the Line for WVU vs. No. 8 Kansas
At high noon, West Virginia (16-14, 8-9) welcomes No. 8 Kansas (23-7, 14-3) to the Coliseum. Kansas has already clinched the Big 12 regular season title.
The Jayhawks enter the Big 12 Tournament as the top seed next week. This afternoon one could make the argument that Kansas doesn't have much to play for.
On the other hand, WVU is trying to keep postseason aspirations alive. Whether it is for a better seed in the Big 12 Tournament, a slim shot at NCAA appearance or even an NIT berth, WVU needs to win games.
"It'll be a Gold Rush, sold out game," said forward Kevin Noreen. "Getting this win would definitely help us get momentum heading into the Big 12 tournament."
A year ago, Kansas played in a regular season finale on the road with a similar scenario. The Jayhawks already were crowned conference champs and were matched up against a team with its season on the line.
"I remember last year, Kansas played in Waco and lost to Baylor pretty handedly. We're hoping that maybe they don't show up last year like they didn't in Texas," Noreen added.
As of right now, WVU Head Coach Bob Huggins believes his team will end up playing games after the conference tournament.
"We're going to play in the postseason. I'm just not sure which one we're going to be in," said Huggins. "I just know we have to win some games. Playing the people that we played, you can make a dramatic jump in the RPI with just a couple of games."
Earlier this week, Kansas Coach Bill Self announced freshman center Joel Embiid would sit out the final two regular season games due to back injury. He should be back for the Big 12 and NCAA tournament, but will miss the game today against WVU.
Embiid averages 11.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game for the Jayhawks. Though the seven-foot center takes a little bit of size, the Mountaineers still feel Kansas is an extremely tough matchup regardless of who they put in the game.
"It's awful isn't it," Huggins joked. "You lose probably the number one pick (Embiid) in the draft and then replace him with a former McDonald's All-American (Tarik Black)."
Black is listed at six-foot-nine, he'll play the center spot this afternoon. Kansas will also roll out two others in its starting lineup at six-foot-eight or taller in Perry Ellis, and Andrew Wiggins.
"They have such depth. They bring Black off the bench, but he'll probably be starting tomorrow since Embiid won't play. But it doesn't matter," said Noreen. "They'll still run the same offense, I don't think a lot changes. It just maybe eliminates that shot blocking presence. They're still Kansas, they're still a good team."
WVU guard Terry Henderson since February 15 against Texas. On Wednesday night he traveled with the Mountaineers to Oklahoma but didn't play any minutes on the court.
His status for Saturday against Kansas is still uncertain.
"He hasn't run up and down the court yet so I don't have any idea," said Huggins.
Henderson averages 12.1 points per game and would give WVU a much need offensive boost to take some stress of both Juwan Staten and Eron Harris.
"He (Henderson) is just another guy that could make shots and keep the floor spread. I think he makes a huge difference," Huggins added.
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