It comes as no surprise that we are talking yet again about West Virginia has a chance to dethrone Kansas as the king of the Big 12 Conference.
The Kansas Jayhawks have dominated the Big 12, winning 13-straight conference titles (regular season). The Mountaineers have finished 2nd to Kansas each of the last two years and was picked to finish 2nd in the preseason voting this season. The conference was expected to have a down year this year, but it looks like the complete opposite is true.
West Virginia isn’t the only team Kansas needs to worry about.
Following a loss to Arizona State yesterday, Kansas head coach Bill Self didn’t shy away from voicing his feelings about his team and called this version of the Jayhawks “the softest team [he’s] had since at Kansas.
So how can West Virginia do it?
Well, it begins with building depth. And although West Virginia has looked light years better than they appeared in game one, they are still lacking depth. They should get some help in that area sometime in mid/late January when junior forward Esa Ahmad returns to action. Coach Bob Huggins will have some decisions to make regarding the starting lineup and what to do with Lamont West and Wesley Harris. One would think that the odd man out will be Wesley Harris despite his impressive play. Don’t be fooled, Ahmad is not a potential top-5 pick in regards to the NBA and is a guy that will come back and just go off scoring 25-30 a game. But another body means the Mountaineers should be able to manage foul trouble a little better.
With the return of Ahmad, it also relieves some of the pressure put on Jevon Carter to score. Ahmad is a scorer, and when he is on the top of his game, he is a dangerous scoring threat. Another positive to go with this would be getting back another starter from last years group and someone who has been in the program for three years under Bob Huggins’ tutelage.
Now we answered the how, but what about the can? Can they do it?
I firmly believe they can, but they will have to weather the storm until he does return. Keep in mind that this is still a very young team and they will probably lose games they shouldn’t and even win games they shouldn’t. Even when he returns, it’s hard to tell if he will make an immediate substantial impact. If all is smooth sailing, then lookout.
It will take him some time to get game-conditioned once again. With Kansas looking suspect after losing on their home court (which they are not used to) and Coach Self calling his team “soft”, it gives me reason to believe that West Virginia has a chance.
But again, they need to keep winning without Ahmad. Esa appeared to really get a good grasp on what his role was towards the end of last season. If he can put it all together, he will be a very special piece of West Virginia’s success and its chances of knocking off Kansas from the top.