The State of West Virginia Basketball
Coming into this season, the expectations for this Mountaineer team were basically through the roof. Hopes of a Big 12 championship and potential for a national championship run seemed to no longer be a pipe dream. Now we here we are, 12 games in and what seemed to be a dream season turned into a potential nightmare. Two losses personnel wise for WVU left more questions than answers and also has many fans wondering what's next. So let's take a look at where we are and what we may season as the season rolls on towards the postseason.
Offensively the Mountaineers look to change their identity now that the roster has a different look then when the season started. With the departure of Oscar Tshiebwe and injury to Isaiah Cottrell, the gold and blue now have to use a much smaller lineup than originally planned. As we have seen this smaller lineup has the potential to be even more dangerous than a lineup filled with bigs. By allowing the offense to spread out more around the perimeter, it creates more operating space for Culver underneath. This also opens the door for a transition to a run and gun style offense. It may not be pretty to watch but it allows an opportunity to score more points due to the volume of shots being taken. With the missing big guys now, our forwards also need to find a way to get some more rebounds. Other than Culver against the Cowboys, our next 3 leading rebounders were all guards and that does not spell success. If the Mountaineers can find a way to consistently score the ball and eliminate the big scoring droughts, offensively they will be fine.
At the other end of the court, WVU still struggles to guard the perimeter shots. It seems as though we are so much slower than every team we face. Our closeouts are slow, rotations are slow, transition is slow and it all piles together to give us our big deficit we have to dig out of. Defense is all about heart and wanting to prove that you are better than the guy you are guarding. You have to want to embarrass the opponent and lock them down. If we can figure out how to be quicker on defending the perimeter shots, and grabbing those long rebounds, defensively the Mountaineers will be able to assert themselves as a potential contender in this league.
Overall West Virginia has the blueprint to be successful even after the recent changes they have been forced to adapt to. Huggins is a great coach who knows how to win and will get our issues solved. At some point though, just like in other sports, the philosophy of this team may have to change with the game. In football, it used to be a ground and pound style game but now is fast paced and air it out style. In basketball, it has become a lot quicker and a lot more reliant on great shooting. The days of gritty defense and feeding the low post all game is a thing of the past. It will win you some games but it just does not seem to be the setup to win big. West Virginia will figure these things out and get this ship on the right path. The timetable for this is still to be determined but as fans, we must stay true and give this a chance to get better.