They've lost three of their last fourAfter starting the year 14-1, West Virginia found themselves ranked No. 2 in the nation back in early January. Since then, they've lost three of four games in the Big 12, with losses coming against Texas Tech, Kansas, and TCU. Is that a good or a bad thing for the Cats?
They're favored by 10 pointsIf Kentucky wants to win on the road, they'll have to do it as one of the biggest underdogs in the Calipari era. Despite the current cold streak, the Mountaineers are currently favored by 10 points, tied for the second-largest since Coach Cal has donned the blue and white. The other time? Florida in 2012-13, when the Gators were favored by 10 in the Swamp. Kentucky lost that game 69-52, but more importantly, they lost Nerlens Noel for the season with a torn ACL.
Jevon Carter is a monsterCarter, a 6-foot-2 senior for West Virginia, averages 16.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. He leads the country in steals with 68, and he has played in 127 career games, the second-most games played among active college basketball players this season. He is also WVU’s all-time leader in steals with 286. Dude is a monster.
They're a defensive powerhouse
Kentucky has the size advantageNo one in West Virginia's projected starting lineup is taller than 6-foot-8. On the bench, forwards Maciej Bender and Logan Routt are the only two players on the Mountaineer roster over 6-foot-9. Kentucky starts five players listed at 6-foot-5 or taller, with each of them possessing wingspans of at least seven feet. Seven players on the roster are listed at 6-foot-7 or taller, and nine are taller than 6-5. WVU is known as the defensive powerhouse, but they'll have all they can handle with UK's length and size.
Covington, KY native, James Bolden, is a key role playerKentucky will be going up against a familiar name, as redshirt sophomore guard and Covington native, James Bolden, has become the team's sharpshooter off the bench. Kentucky was seen as Bolden's dream school out of Holmes High School, and many thought Calipari would extend an offer to the local three-star. He even visited Kentucky back in 2013. Unfortunately, that offer never came, and Bolden ended up suiting up for Bob Huggins and the West Virginia Mountaineers. Bolden missed his freshman year with a torn ACL, but has bounced back in a big way for the Mountaineers. He is currently averaging 9.4 points and 2.2 rebounds per contest, and has hit 42 three-pointers.
Kentucky dominates the seriesSince the early 1900s, Kentucky has had West Virginia's number. The Wildcats lead the series with WVU that began in 1923-24 by a 15-5 margin. The last meeting took place in the Sweet 16 of the 2015 NCAA Tournament, when the Mountaineers talked trash before the game and got run out of the gym by a final score of 78-39. Kentucky also won their last visit to Morgantown, winning 106-100 on Dec. 7, 1970.
...But Bob Huggins has dominated John CalipariBob Huggins is 1-5 all-time against Kentucky, and Calipari is 12-7 against WVU. Heads up, however, Huggy Bear has come out victorious more often than not. Huggins is 8-3 all-time against Calipari. When Huggins was at Cincinnati, he had a 2-0 record against Calipari’s UMass teams and a 5-1 record against Calipari’s Memphis teams. They're 1-1 against Cal at Kentucky. Overall, Huggins is the seventh-winningest coach in NCAA history with 835 wins.
They're not very good in the Big 12/SEC Challenge
They like to fight fansEarlier this month, Texas Tech knocked down West Virginia at home, and fans stormed the court to celebrate the victory. The Mountaineers apparently weren't very happy about it. A West Virginia player punched a fan on the court, and two more Mountaineers got into a shoving match with a few other fans in attendance. Take a look: https://twitter.com/sinow/status/952410945220902912 Here's another angle:
If Kentucky wins and you're in Morgantown, keep your guard up.
I guess Wesley Harris #21 and @sagaba50 #50 from @WVUhoops were a little bitter after tonight’s loss to @TexasTechMBB Swinging at fans on the court ðŸ™„ @Big12Conference @espn #wreckem #gunsup #ttu #wvu pic.twitter.com/cpTdNolmVX– Steven Gutierrez (@stevenjee10) January 14, 2018