The first Big 12 basketball game at the WVU Coliseum of 2022 tips off when West Virginia faces Kansas State on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. ET on Big 12 Now on ESPN+, and opens a double-header with the Wildcats in Morgantown as the women have a 7 p.m. ET start.
COVID-19 issues have struck the sports world over the last several weeks, and neither of these teams are immune from those impacts. West Virginia will have its full squad back for the first time this conference season, according to coach Bob Huggins — but on the other end, Kansas State will come to Morgantown with a short bench that lacks head coach Bruce Weber.
The K-State-WVU series has been competitive since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12 in 2012, with Saturday’s hosts leading the series 12-7 in that span. They’re riding a three-game win streak over the Wildcats into this clash, and look to extend it to four games with their first league win of the season.
Here are the biggest storylines headed into this one:
Pluses for WVU, minuses for KSU
Huggins announced Friday that he expects to have his full lineup against Kansas State, which is welcome news after missing two of his top players in the league opener at then-No. 17 Texas on Jan. 1. WVU is especially excited to get Big 12 leading scorer Taz Sherman back in the lineup, as the team’s offense struggled in his absence, while defensive leader Gabe Osabuohien will also re-enter the rotation.
The duo — along with freshman guard Kobe Johnson — has missed a significant amount of time away from the court, so it is not clear how much they will actually play against Kansas State, but Huggins indicated that they are likely not back in full shape.
“I think that’s kind of up to them,” Huggins said. “Those guys have played enough and been around enough that they’ll tell me when they need a break.”
Kansas State also faced the Longhorns with a short bench, but unfortunately for the Wildcats, it won’t be much shorter when they come to Morgantown. There will be seven scholarship players available for K-State — just one more than the requirement — along with one coach and one graduate assistant. They will return Markquis Nowell, one of the three double-digit scorers on the squad, but Weber didn’t expand on who will or will not be at the Coliseum.
Bridging the scoring gap
WVU has been searching for a third scoring option all season, and Sherman’s absence expedited that process. Huggins has especially been prodding sophomore forward Jalen Bridges to take over that spot, and he stepped up against the Longhorns, adding 18 points and six rebounds.
“JB is good,” Huggins said after the Texas loss. “I think he struggled because he wasn’t making shots. He spent time in the gym, and he’s been making shots in practice. And he obviously made shots tonight.”
It will be critical for WVU if the Fairmont native can make it two games in a row, and carry it into the league slate.
K-State at West Virginia game information
The Mountaineers and the Wildcats tip off at 2 p.m. ET on Big 12 Now on ESPN+. Saturday starts, however, at 9 a.m. ET with The Bob Huggins Show, then continues at 10 a.m. ET with Mountaineer GameDay, the most fun pregame show in the Mountain State, airing on West Virginia Nexstar stations and AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh.