Kentucky will have their biggest test of the season tomorrow night, as the unranked Wildcats will take on the No. 7 West Virginia Mountaineers in Morgantown.
Here’s everything you need to know about Kentucky’s opponent:
They’ve lost three of their last four
After 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 points
If 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 monster
Carter, 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.
Last year, Carter was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, and he was also named to the All-Big 12 Defensive Team for the third year in a row. Last year, he was named NABC Defensive Player of the Year and the Lefty Driesell Defensive Player of the Year.
Needless to say, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will have his hands full.
They’re a defensive powerhouse
Jevon Carter leads the team on the defensive end of the floor, but like all Bob Huggins teams, the entire roster is talented defensively.
WVU ranks second in overall turnover margin (7.0), fourth in forced turnovers (19.1), seventh in steals per game (9.3) and second in offensive rebounds per game (14.6).
The Mountaineers are forcing its opponents to turn the ball over on 25.5 percent of their possessions, good for second in the country.
In fact, they’ve nearly forced more turnovers (382) than its opponents’ made field goals (423).
The Cats can’t afford a poor shooting night if they plan on coming out of Morgantown with a victory.
Kentucky has the size advantage
No 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 player
Kentucky 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.
He also matched his career high with 19 points on 5-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc against Texas last week.
Kentucky dominates the series
Since 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 Calipari
Bob 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
The Mountaineers are just 1-3 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge since it began. They defeated Texas A&M in Morgantown last season, lost at Florida two years ago, fell to LSU at home three years ago and lost at Missouri four years ago.
In the Big East/SEC Challenge, West Virginia was 1-1 with a win over Auburn in 2007 and a loss against Miss. State in 2011.
Let’s see if that trend continues tomorrow night.
They like to fight fans
Earlier 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:
A West Virginia player threw a punch at a fan after the Texas Tech crowd stormed the court pic.twitter.com/rVfA0J2uRv
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) January 14, 2018
Here’s another angle:
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
If Kentucky wins and you’re in Morgantown, keep your guard up.
Bonus: Cats By 90
We’re walking out of WVU Coliseum with a dub.
Let’s get this money.