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West Virginia C Jesse Edwards: Status for game against UCF on Tuesday

The Mountaineers are coming off a big win over Kansas and could get their starting center back. We update you on Edwards’ status and whether or not he’ll play.

West Virginia Mountaineers center Jesse Edwards drives tot eh hoop past Virginia Cavaliers forward Jacob Groves in the second half during the Fort Myers Tip-Off third place game at Suncoast Credit Union Arena.  Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The West Virginia Mountaineers have had perhaps the most roller coaster season of any Big 12 team to this point. West Virginia started the season 5-8 in non-conference play, something the program doesn’t do often. The Mountaineers lost back-to-back games to start Big 12 play but have come on lately. WVU has two wins over ranked opponents since, one against No. 3 Kansas at home on Saturday.

The Mountaineers have bounced back despite the absence of starting center Jesse Edwards, who was a transfer from Syracuse before the 2023-24 season. Edwards has been sidelined since the middle of December with a wrist injury. We’re updating you on Edwards status for the Mountaineers matchup in Big 12 play vs. UCF on Tuesday. The latest reports are saying Edwards is a game-time decision after returning to practice.

If you count the UMass game — the one where Edwards was injured — the Mountaineers are 3-6 without the center this season. The issue was Edwards got hurt in the game when G Kerr Kriisa returned from suspension. WVU would also get RaeQuan Battle onto the court after he was deemed eligible to play. So Battle, Kriisa and Edwards — the Big 3 transfers for West Virginia — haven’t played a game together this season.

If Edwards is able to get back on the court Tuesday, it would be the first time the Mountaineers have their full roster healthy and eligible all season. The Mountaineers are 8-point underdogs on the road vs. the Knights, who are 11-6 on the season and 2-3 in Big 12 play. UCF — like WVU — also beat both Texas and Kansas recently. The Knights are coming off a loss to Houston over the weekend.

If Edwards is able to get back on the court Tuesday, it would be a huge boost for the Mountaineers interior offense and defense. At 7-foot, Edwards was looking like an anchor down low before the wrist injury, averaging 14.8 points and 8.7 rebounds in his first 10 games in Gold and Blue. If Edwards is back and not on a minutes limit, Akok Akok likely heads to the bench but would still see time as the backup center.

You’d think when Edwards is back the Mountaineers will run a lot of the offense through Kriisa/Battle doing pick-and-roll and high screens with the center. In eight games since becoming eligible, Battle is averaging close to 20 points per game. Forward Patrick Suemnick has stepped up with Edwards out as well, playing 20+ minutes in each of the past six games while scoring in double figures in three of those contests. Suemnick scored a season-high 20 points in the win over the Jayhawks.

If Edwards is back in the lineup, backing WVU on the spread and/or moneyline isn’t a bad option. UCF is one of the better defensive teams in the country, ranking top-10 on KenPom in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. But the Knights are not a good offensive team. It’s unclear what this Mountaineer team would look like at 100% but we know WVU can score after hanging 91 points on Kansas. If Edwards is out, UCF may be too much for WVU to overcome on the road.