MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — No. 24 West Virginia and Kansas State finish out the calendar year by opening their respective Big 12 Conference slates against one another on Saturday. Tip-off at Bramlage Coliseum is set for 7 p.m. ET and it will be shown on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.
The Mountaineers (11-2) enter this contest in good form both in this campaign and in its series with the Wildcats (11-1). WVU travels to Manhattan on a four-game win streak, good enough to put the team in the AP Top 25, and they have taken five of their last six meetings with the Wildcats.
WVU even ended the Wildcats’ season in 2021-22, topping them 73-67 in the Big 12 Tournament.
Saturday will be the 13th installment of a new era in Wildcat basketball as first-year head coach Jerome Tang faces Hall of Famer Bob Huggins for the first time in his young career. Tang has built an efficient basketball team in year one that distributes the ball well,
“We’d like to keep it out of the little fella’s hands because he’s the one making the passes. He’s the one penetrating with the ball, he’s the one drawing defenders, and he’s a terrific passer.”
That “little fella” is Markquis Nowell, a 5-foot-8 guard out of Harlem, New York. His total of 100 assists this season is the best in the Big 12 and the third-best in the country and pairs nicely with his team runner-up 13.7 points per game. Nowell’s strong play in the backcourt has led the Wildcats to its best start since 2016-17.
WVU brings an explosive offense to the Bramlage Coliseum. The Mountaineers have scored 1,052 points this season, the most in the Big 12, which averages out to 80.9 per game.
Huggins welcomes the return of forward Emmitt Matthews Jr., the team’s leader on and off the court, after the fifth-year senior missed WVU’s previous two games with an injury. He is one of three Mountaineer starters that have significant Big 12 experience along with point guard Kedrian Johnson and Tre Mitchell.
The rest of the squad possesses plenty of experience, but this will be their first soiree with the stout Big 12.
“I think we’re getting better. When you put together a bunch of guys that have come from different ways of doing things — you know, [guard] Erik [Stevenson has] been at three different schools, so we’re trying to get those guys to understand what we want done,”
Huggins said. “… I think the one guy that knows what’s going on is Emmitt, having been here in three years, and I think Tre’s kind of the same way, but they’re getting better and better.”
Tip-off between the 24th-ranked Mountaineers and the Wildcats is set for 7 p.m. ET on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.