Morgantown, West Virginia – The West Virginia Mountaineers, 9-3 overall and 2-2 in the Big 12 Conference, are ranked #14 in the Associated Press Poll heading into two huge back-to-back games against #4 Texas at home and #2 Baylor on the road.
With the loss of Isaiah Cottrell to a Achilles’ heel injury for the season and the departure of Oscar Tshiebwe to the transfer portal, the Mountaineers are no longer the dominant interior team that they were to start the season. With that said, West Virginia needs a new identity to continue to grow and to achieve what they want to achieve.
When West Virginia entered the Big 12 in 2013, the team struggled to compete in the new league. In the first season in the Big 12, the Mountaineers finished 13-19 and 6-13 in the conference. In 2014, West Virginia went 17-16 and 9-9.
Head Coach Bob Huggins knew that changes would have to be made for the Mountaineers to get his team over the hump and this is how “Press Virginia” was born. Huggins was flexible and adapted a full-court press on virtually every possession. Opposing teams were confused and couldn’t handle the pressure for the entire game.
Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles were only Freshmen, but their toughness and competitiveness was already shining through. The team also featured Seniors Juwan Staten and Gary Browne, Juniors Jonathan Holton and Jaysean Paige, and Sophomores Tarik Phillip, Devin Williams and Nathan Adrian. In other words, the Mountaineers were loaded.
The “Press Virginia” era featured seasons where the Mountaineers finished 25-10, 26-9, 28-9, 26-11 with four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. While the current West Virginia team may not have the depth that the Press Virginia teams had, they are still very deep and have the athleticism to run the press full time.
Emmitt Matthews has the length and size to be a disruptive force at the head of the press in the Jonathan Holton/Nathan Adrian role, Miles McBride is a comparable defender to Jevon Carter in his Freshman season, and this year’s team is athletic and has depth at every position. Gabe Osabuohien and Kedrian Johnson were made for Press Virginia!
Not only will the press wear out and confuse opponents, it will also lead to turnovers, which will inevitably lead to easy baskets on the other end. While the “Press Virginia” teams of the past struggled to shoot from the perimeter in the same way that this year’s team has, they scored many points off of turnovers and were able to stay with teams simply by creating chaos defensively.
The new version of the West Virginia Mountaineers need an identity and the perfect identity for them is to look to the past successes and become “Press Virginia” once again. In order to have a deep run in March, the Mountaineers need to be different, to have something that will catch opposing teams off guard and be difficult to prepare for, and Press Virginia is exactly that.
Bring Press Virginia back now!