Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Could Coronavirus Affect March Madness?

With the recent worldwide panic of the Coronavirus, the NCAA is considering all options they have to keep everyone safe during March Madness. According to USA Today, the National Collegiate Players Association has pleaded with the NCAA in an attempt to keep fans from attending the March Madness tournament. The NCAA tournament brings individuals from all around the world together, and could potentially result in the spreading of the virus. The NACP is urging the NCAA to act and act immediately. Stay tuned to The Voice of West Virginia for updates. https://twitter.com/indystar/status/1233872087288205312?s=21  

The 2021 Mountaineers will be the Most Talented West Virginia Team Ever

The West Virginia Mountaineers, 13-2, are off to a sensational start to the season and could absolutely compete for a Big 12 Conference Championship and perhaps a National Championship this season.  After a miserable 15-21 season last year, it is an incredible time to be a West Virginia fan and this season and team should be appreciated. However, looking ahead, the 2020-2021 West Virginia Mountaineers will almost certainly be the best, most talented team in the program's history.  This of course depends on everything going right and everyone coming back, but the team could potentially be a National Championship favorite next season. Oscar Tshiebwe, the fabulous Freshman Forward, is absolutely athletically gifted enough to declare for the NBA Draft right now, but he is still very raw and would benefit from another season in Morgantown.  Bob Huggins will have the unfortunate story of Sagaba Konate to use as an excellent example of what happens if a player leaves prematurely.  I suspect that Tshiebwe will be back for one more season and then declare for the NBA following a remarkable Sophomore year. Derek Culver, although again very talented, is unlikely to be ready for the NBA after this season.  He's perhaps even more raw than Tshiebwe and leaving West Virginia early would be a tremendously poor decision for him to make.  To truly gain the attention of NBA scouts, Culver must improve his post play, develop his mid-range game and learn to play more under control. The players that the Mountaineers will likely lose next year are Seniors Jermaine Haley, Chase Harler and Logan Routt.  Haley is a big, consistent, talented guard and is a pretty massive loss for the team.  Harler has become a reliable shooter and aggressive defender off the bench and Routt is a big body who adds depth on the interior. With that said, there are players on the team currently who will step up to replace the departing Seniors (Sean McNeil and Taz Sherman will play a bigger role) and several incoming players who will make the team even deeper and probably better. Jalen Bridges, who redshirted this season, has benefited from a year of practicing and working out with the team.  A 4 star in-state recruit out of Fairmont, Bridges has the size and skill to get minutes off the bench and contribute immediately.  I erroneously said that West Virginia "didn't need Bridges" over six months ago, but he's clearly going to be an outstanding player for the Mountaineers. Isaiah Cottrell, a 6'10 four star forward, has been absolutely terrific for the juggernaut Huntington Prep team this year.  Although Duke commit Jaemyn Brakefield gets more attention, Cottrell has been the most consistent player on the team and his length and skill will be invaluable for the Mountaineers as a Freshman next season. Taj Thweatt, a three star 6'7 forward out of New Jersey, and Kedrian Johnson, a 6'4 guard who has been mentioned as one of the best JUCO players in the country this season, will be immediate big-time contributors off the bench as well. This year's team is very, very good, but next season's team will be extremely athletic, very deep and without a doubt the most talented team in West Virginia basketball history.  Imagine Miles McBride, Emmitt Matthews, Jr., Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe with another year of experience!  Depending on how the team finishes this season, expect them to be a Preseason Top 5 team and a favorite to win the National Championship next year.

Huggins to the Hall of Fame is a No-Brainer

One of the truly shameful injustices in all of college basketball is Bob Huggins’ absence in the Basketball Hall of Fame.  Each WVU game, announcers wonder aloud, “How can Bob Huggins not be a Hall of Famer?” After all, he has 800 career wins, has led two different schools to the Final Four, and has won 70% of his games over the course of his illustrious 36 year career. Huggins is the 7th all time winningest coach in Division I college basketball history and has the 4th most wins of active coaches, behind only Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, and Roy Williams. He will pass Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith on the all time list this year. Huggins is once again on the list of eligible candidates for the 2020 season and this year's class is perhaps one of the most spectacular ever.  There are several high-profile first-time nominees including Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Chris Bosh, Shawn Marion, Michael Finley, in addition to many other previously nominated greats, including George Karl, Mark Jackson, Diggers Phelps and, of course, Bob Huggins. According to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame website, "A press conference announcing the Finalists from the North American and Women’s committee for the Class of 2020 will be held during NBA All-Star Weekend, which is scheduled for Friday, February 14th in Chicago, Illinois. The entire Class of 2020, including those selected by the direct elect committees, will be unveiled during the NCAA Final Four in Atlanta, Georgia in early April." The complete list of male North American nominees includes: Rick Adelman (COA), Fletcher Arritt (COA)*, Johnny Bach (COA), Chauncey Billups (PLA), Chris Bosh (PLA)*, Kobe Bryant (PLA)*, Rick Byrd (COA), Muggsy Bogues (PLA), Irv Brown (REF), Jim Burch (REF), Marcus Camby (PLA), Tim Duncan (PLA)*, Mark Eaton (PLA), Dale Ellis (PLA), Hugh Evans (REF), Michael Finley (PLA)*, Steve Fisher (COA), Cotton Fitzsimmons (COA), Kevin Garnett (PLA)*, Richard Hamilton (PLAY), Tim Hardaway (PLA), Ed Hightower (REF), Bob Huggins (COA), Mark Jackson (PLA), Herman Johnson (COA)*, Marques Johnson (PLA), George Karl (COA), Gene Keady (COA), Ken Kern (COA) Shawn Marion (PLA)*, Rollie Massimino (COA), Bob McKillop (COA)*, Danny Miles (COA), Steve Moore (COA)*m Dick Motta (COA), Jake O’Donnell (REF), Digger Phelps (COA), Lamont Robinson (PLA), Bo Ryan (COA), Bob Saulsbury (COA), Norm Sloan (COA)*, Eddie Sutton (COA), Rudy Tomjanovich (COA), Ben Wallace (PLA), Chris Webber (PLA), Willie West (COA), Buck Williams (PLA)*, and Jay Wright (COA). Although this is a long and illustrious list of great former players and coaches, there are few more deserving than Bob Huggins.  Enough is enough, the West Virginia Head Coach should finally be inducted into the Hall of Fame class of 2020 and given the respect that he's earned during an absolutely incredible career.

West Virginia Beats Youngstown State

The West Virginia Mountaineers shook off a slow, sluggish first half to beat the Youngstown State Penguins 75-64 and to move to 10-1 on the season. West Virginia was led by Freshman Oscar Tshiebwe, who finished the game with 19 points (8-12 FG) and 6 rebounds Sophomore Derek Culver, who added 15 points (7-10 FG) and 7 rebounds. https://twitter.com/WVUhoops/status/1208452263729127426?s=20 Taz Sherman (10 points) and Miles McBride (10 points) both played well off the bench.  Jermaine Haley added 8 points and Emmitt Matthews, Jr. had his worse game of the season by far, finishing with 1 point and 2 rebounds. https://twitter.com/WVUhoops/status/1208472064253943808?s=20 Youngstown State, now 7-6, was paced by their sensational Sophomore guard Darius Quisenberry, who finished with 22 points and 3 assists. West Virginia will now have a week off before a showdown with the 10-1 and #5 ranked Ohio State in Cleveland, Ohio on December 29th.  The game will be televised live on FS1 at noon.

Unacceptable that a West Virginia Game is not Televised

As much as I enjoy listening to the great Tony Caridi beautifully paint the picture of the action unfolding with his words, it's absolutely unacceptable that the West Virginia Mountaineers game against the Youngstown State Penguins is not televised or available via live stream. One of the most alarming parts of West Virginia sports is the fans' inability to know when and where to watch the Mountaineers play.  With so many options available, it's inconceivable to even imagine that one of them couldn't pick up all West Virginia games. Perhaps it's the overwhelming amount of options available that make it challenging.  ATSN, FS1, Big 12 Now, ESPN+, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU?  Does anyone know if they even have these channels? The University of Texas makes it very easy.  Games are either on one of the main ESPN channels or on The Longhorn Network.  Why is there not a Mountaineers Network?  Or West Virginia Network?  The West Virginia Mountaineers are the only team in the state worth watching and yet there isn't one local network capable of or willing to make the team a priority? During today's game, local CBS channel WDTV is showing "Xploration: Weird But True" and "Xploration: Awesome Planet" and local NBC Channel 12 WBOY is showing EPL Soccer Leicester City vs. Manchester City.  There is simply no way that either of these programming options will get anywhere near the viewers as a West Virginia basketball game. Maybe it's not up to these channels and has something to do with West Virginia University making it difficult.  The West Virginia University media and communications departments are decades behind the rest of the country, so it wouldn't surprise me, but I don't want to make any accusations without full knowledge of the situation. However, someone is dropping the ball and it's absolute madness that 1.8 West Virginians (and many more outside of the state) who will be sitting around a radio today listening to the Mountaineers like it's 1950.

Jevon Carter Deserves More Playing Time With the Phoenix Suns

Former West Virginia basketball player Jevon Carter, who earned the love and admiration of the entire state, who led the Mountaineers to three Sweet 16 appearances while finishing his career as the all-time WVU career steal leader (330), the single-season WVU steal leader (112), the single-season WVU assist leader (246) and a four-time Big 12 All-Defensive team member, should absolutely be a key player for the Phoenix Suns in the NBA this season. Carter was traded last year from the Memphis Grizzlies after his rookie season and the new opportunity in Phoenix looks extremely promising.  The Suns signed veteran free agent Ricky Rubio in the offseason, but it seemed like Carter would be the clear energy backup point guard off the bench. To begin the season, Carter played like West Virginians know he's capable of.  Phoenix Suns Head Coach Monty Williams was very complimentary of Carter and started to refer to him as "the bulldog." Williams had a 10 man rotation and Carter was very much a key part of the rotation. According to Williams, "Yeah, he’s a gamer. You know he makes big shots without Deandre Ayton and some of the lineups we had out there, it’s hard to call plays. He is playing off the ball which he doesn’t do sometimes or a lot. For him to come off and takes the shots, for me it’s a biggie, but he makes them and he’s not afraid of them. For me, he is a guy that I can rely on in those moments, he is not afraid of taking big shots." This appears to have changed.   Carter went through a very difficult 4-game stretch where he only averaged 0.5 points in 13 minutes a game.  He went 0-6 from three point range during this stretch as well.  Following this stretch, Williams' 10-man rotation was trimmed to 9 and Carter is no longer a consistent part of the Suns' rotation. Guards Tyler Johnson and Ty Jerome have gotten most of the minutes behind Ricky Rubio and Carter has had little opportunity to play.  Carter played only 7 minutes in 3 games (sitting out entirel for 2 games) before finally getting 10 minutes of play in the Suns' December 2nd win against the Charlotte Hornets.   Carter made the most of his opportunity, scoring 6 points on 2-3 shooting from three point range in his limited time. https://twitter.com/YotesGlendale/status/1201664344657842176?s=20 Jevon Carter brings so much to a team - lockdown defense, effort, heart, selfless, team-first play - and it's disappointing that he isn't getting the playing time that he's earned.  Carter is a warrior, though, and he will never, ever give up.  He will keep grinding and keep earning his way on the court.  

College Basketball Polls Are Complete Garbage

The West Virginia Mountaineers are not currently ranked and that doesn't matter.  In the grand scheme of things, a team's ranking at the beginning of December is meaningless.  With that said, West Virginia deserves to be not only ranked but ranked highly.   Proponents of the current system point at the use of the KenPom metric ratings.  The KenPom metrics is purely predictive and has almost nothing to do with how a team has performed this season.  According to their own website, "if you’re looking for a system that rates teams on how “good” their season has been, you’ve come to the wrong place." In other words, it's a watered-down version of reality so that voters who don't really know anything about most teams can predict how well a team might play if they were to play tonight.  It's a snapshot, a small glimpse of a much bigger picture.  The KenPom metrics is ideal in the gambling world only because it predicts how teams will perform on a given night against a given team, and that's all that it does. Imagine being given a raise at work based not on your performance but rather on how you might do.  It's an absolutely ridiculous, asinine way to reward employees...or teams.  While the RPI is now considered "outdated" by college basketball experts, it's absolutely the most fair, reasonable way to acknowledge a team for its actual performance on the court.  RPI takes wins, losses and strength of schedule into account, and it is based solely on how a team has performed this season. West Virginia is the most impressive team in the country to start the season.  At 7-0 and with the #4 ranked strength of schedule, there is no question that the Mountaineers deserve to be ranked based on performance.  What reasonable, rational person would base a team's ranking on a predictive combination of adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency instead of merit and quality of performance?  Apparently NCAA college basketball voters. While the Mountaineers not being ranked is momentarily frustrating, it is likely a blessing in disguise.  Flying under the radar as an unranked team is far better at this time of the year and the Mountaineers will certainly use this disrespect as motivation going forward.

Mountaineers hold position in latest Bracketology

Winning the Cancun Challenge hasn't improved West Virginia's NCAA Tournament prospects according the ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi. In the latest version of his ESPN Bracketology forecast, Lunardi has the Mountaineers in the tournament as a 10 seed in the East Region. That's the same seed Lunardi had WVU in last week's prediction. In this week's Bracketology, Lunardi has WVU playing seventh-seed St. Mary's in Cleveland in the first round.

Pick 6th: Culver’s play off the bench was both needed and encouraging

  For only the second time this season, sophomore Derek Culver wasn't in the West Virginia starting lineup in the Mountaineers 86-81 home victory over Rhode Island Sunday afternoon. The talented WVU (7-0) forward responded with his best performance of the season. West Virginia coach Bob Huggins inserted Arkansas transfer Gabe Osabuohien in Culver's place in the starting lineup. But most of Culver's bench time was limited to the early game. In his role as sixth-man Sunday, Culver played 32 minutes and put up a double-double with a team-high 25 points and a game-leading 11 rebounds. The Mountaineers needed all of the production Culver delivered to hold off a pesky Rams (5-3) squad that battled back from an 11-point halftime deficit to battle WVU to the wire. Culver was the Mountaineers best player last season. Before Sunday, he wasn't the same dominant force he developed into as a freshman. Part of Culver's reduced production can be attributed to the arrival of five-star freshman Oscar Tshiewbe. Culver and Tshiewbe are similar players - back to the basket forwards who rely on dominating the glass and scoring from the post. It's completely expected that the Mountaineers wouldn't require the same workload from Culver this season as last. They're a significantly better and deeper team than the train-wreck they were last year. A big reason Huggins relied so heavily on Culver last year is he didn't have other options. Tshiewbe and Osabuohien, among others, have changed that dynamic. Culver isn't going to be the dominant force for the Mountaineers, game in, game out, that he was last year. That's good. It means WVU is a better team. But if the Mountaineers are going to be an NCAA tournament team and a Big 12 Conference contender, they are going to need Culver to contribute. Not always the kind of dominating effort he turned in Sunday. Sometimes they will need Culver to be a star. It was encouraging to see him deliver that. Hopefully the malaise that Culver seemed to be under to start the season is gone. It had to be a difficult adjustment for him. He's gone from the team's undisputed best player as a freshman to being eclipsed by newcomer Tshiewbe as well as sharing time and touches with a much-improved supporting cast. Culver didn't appear to adjust well to the transition early. That appears to have changed in the past few games. Tshiewbe's been in college basketball for just seven games, but he's already West Virginia's best player. His skill set is basically the exact same as Culver. He's just a little better in every aspect. Tshiewbe is a little quicker, a little stronger on the glass, a little smoother in his footwork, has a little softer hands and touch. But Tshiewbe is still young. He hasn't yet developed consistency from game to game. Especially in games where Tshiewbe's contributions are middling or non-existent (Tshiewbe finished 11 points and nine rebounds Sunday), WVU needs someone to pick up the slack. Perhaps Osabuohien is capable of doing so. Culver certainly is. Besides the obvious benefit of his statistical production, an encouraging aspect of Culver's standout performance Sunday was how well he took to not starting. He seems to have adjusted and accepted the new reality of his role with the team. From winning the Cancun Challenge to their current standing as the No. 1 rated team in the RPI, there has been plenty of positive developments for the WVU basketball team. None may be better for the Mountaineers than the reemergence of Culver.

Sweet 16 or Bust for West Virginia Basketball

Bob Huggins has been busy since the end of last year’s dismal 15-21 season. In addition to Oscar Tshiebwe and Miles McBride, Huggins added his top two shooting guard targets with the additions of JUCO studs Sean McNeil and Tajzmel “Taz” Sherman. These four key players added to an already exciting roster that includes Derek Culver, one of the top remaining players in the Big 12, Jordan McCabe, WVU’s undisputed floor general and leader, Emmitt Matthews, Jr., who Huggins refers to as “the most improved player on the team”, Jermaine Haley, who was spectacular in the final 10 games of last season, as well as key reserves Chase Harler, Brandon Knapper, Logan Routt and perhaps Arkansas transfer Gabe Osabuohien. Although this team has modest expectations from “experts” – picked to finish 5th in the conference by Big 12 coaches – the Mountaineers have huge expectations for themselves behind closed doors. This is a Bob Huggins’ team capable of incredible success this season.  Their lack of perimeter scoring has been addressed, their depth deficiency has been addressed and Huggins finally has a cohesive group of players that are prototypical Huggins’ guys.  The West Virginia roster is loaded with tough, defensive-minded, interior rebounders who put the team before themselves. Trending: Heads or Tails? Geno Smith at the Center of Monday Night Football Controversy Bob Huggins promised he would fix the mess that was last year’s team and he has certainly accomplished that.  This is a brand new team, a brand new year, and anything less than a Sweet 16 appearance will be a major disappointed for the team and the people of West Virginia. Huggins likely doesn’t have many years left on the sidelines of the Coliseum and this team gives him as good of a chance to win the National Championship as any team he’s ever coached.  Huggins, who has won 860 games in his long and illustrious career, has led his teams to nine Sweet 16 appearances, four Elite 8 trips and two Final Fours. The 2019-2020 version of West Virginia basketball has the leadership, the talent, the coaching and the cohesiveness to to make it to the Sweet 16 and even advance to the Elite Eight, Final Four or even a National Championship.  Tonight’s game against Akron is the start of something truly special for Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers. https://twitter.com/WVUhoops/status/1192875286544736256  

Growing Up Jevon Carter

“Leaders are made, they are not born.  They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us may pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”  – Vince Lombardi Jevon Carter was not an average child.  He never went on family vacations because he wanted to stay home to concentrate on baseball and basketball.  He was 10 years old when he said to his mother, Cynthia Johnson, “My team needs me.”  Instead of going to the beach or to amusement parks, Jevon stayed home.  He practiced and he prepared and he was always there for his team.  When other boys his age were playing video games, he was in the driveway dribbling or at gym working on his game.  He took meticulous care of his toys and always kept his room and clothes neat and tidy.  In other words, he was not like other children.  His mother said it seemed that he was a “born leader.”  She could see real leadership qualities in him as early as 3 years old. Many studies about leadership have been conducted with the question “can someone be a born leader?” at the forefront and the results are very interesting.  While someone can be predisposed to be a leader from birth, like some are predisposed to talents in music, art or athletics, it’s difficult to say whether someone can be a born leader or not.  Make no mistake about it, Jevon was born with something quite special.  He was clearly inclined at an early age with the gifts and characteristics of a leader.  He spoke up for his older cousins (who he spent most of his childhood with), he was responsible and independent and understood the value of hard work.  His mature nature at such an early age suggests that it was inherent to him since birth, that he was born with that special quality that made him destined to be great at whatever he chose to do.  His mother explained to him that she would support him regardless of what he chose to do with his life; “whether he decided to be a doctor or a drummer”, she would “make sure he had every opportunity to be the best.” Failure to do whatever he wanted was simply not an option.  Yes, he was put in a position to use his God-given abilities to be great, but he had to put in a lot of time and effort. Trending: The Neal Brown Honeymoon is Over   He worked hard his whole life.  In my interview with him, I asked him where he thought his incredible work ethic came from.  He replied, “My background, my father, my family.  I’ve been struggling and fighting my whole life to get everything that I have.  I always had an inner drive and desire to be the best I could be.  And so I motivate myself.  I push myself.”  As a child, basketball was not his most natural sport.  He was naturally gifted as a baseball player, but he loved basketball.  (Jevon recently told his mother “What was I thinking choosing basketball over baseball?” after learning of Bryce Harper’s $330 million dollar contract). Perhaps it was the fact that basketball didn’t come as easily as baseball that made him love it even more.  Maybe working hard for something was the only way to truly satisfy him.  Basketball became his passion and he lived it and he dreamed about it (and talked about it in his sleep, according to his mother).  Although he didn’t tell anyone that he wanted to play in the NBA until his Junior year in college, he didn’t have to.  People close to him knew.   All of his efforts were focused on becoming the very best basketball player that he could be and he was going to be one of the best at whatever he chose to do with his life. He split time between his mother’s and father’s homes.  His mom was an academic scholar (she attended the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga and was on the Dean’s list with an academic scholarship) and focused on Jevon’s academics.  She didn’t pressure him about getting all As while in school, but she did demand that he always did his best.  “The As and academic accolades were just products of his competitive and perfectionist nature.  He did not want to get anything less than an A.”  She provided the love and unrelenting support that Jevon needed growing up and continues to do the same to this day. His father, Leroy, a former baseball and basketball player himself, handled all of his son’s sporting endeavors.  He was an absolute drill sergeant with Jevon. He pushed him every day in athletics.  He showed Jevon at an early age the discipline it takes to be an elite athlete.  Leroy Carter worked with and helped condition several future NBA players when they were young from the Proviso, Illinois area (Cory Maggette, Michael Finley, Shannon Brown, Dee Brown, just to name a few) and played with Reggie Jordan and Doc Rivers in high school.  Leroy was an outstanding player, but didn’t have a great attitude and lacked the family support needed to pursue an NBA career as a young man.  He didn’t want to see the same thing happen with his son.  In Jevon Carter’s letter on the “The Players’ Tribune”, he wrote, “My father made me care about every little detail of my game and he also taught me why each detail was important. My drive, work ethic and basketball IQ all come from him.  He asked a lot of me, but he and I both knew it would take a lot to succeed at the next level.” He had to work hard to develop and refine his craft.  He did it as a child, as a young man and now as an adult at the pinnacle of his chosen profession.  His success is a culmination of his God-given qualities, his incredible hard work and outstanding parenting by his mother and father.  At an early age, I’m sure he would never have imagined that he would have the support of an entire state....

Jalen Bridges Should Play This Season

Jalen Bridges, the 6’7  four star small forward originally from Fairmont, WV, committed to West Virginia University instead of playing a year of prep school basketball.  It was decided by the Bridges family that he would take a year to settle into college, adjust to life in Morgantown and better prepare his body for the rigors of college basketball. Bridges,  who averaged 22.2 points per game at Fairmont Senior and took his team to the state championship game last season, is expected to redshirt this season and be a part of the 2020 class. West Virginia Head Coach Bob Huggins commented on Jalen Bridges recently, saying,  “I think he’s going to be a really good player, but the decision has always been for him to redshirt this season. However, Bridges looks ready right now.  He’s long, athletic, can shoot and although he probably needs to add some weight and muscle, he appears ready to contribute for the Mountaineers right away. https://twitter.com/WVUhoops/status/1190411199646535680   Bridges , who was allowed to play in the exhibition game against Duquesne, has 4 points in limited time in the first half, but has already flashed signs of brilliance. If Bridges remains a Redshirt this season, imagine the production that he will provide for the hometown Mountaineers in the next four seasons!  If it’s decided that he plays this season, Bridges is absolutely ready to step in and contribute for the Mountaineers right away.  Regardless of what’s decided, it’s wonderful to see him in a Mountaineers uniform and a part of the West Virginia basketball program!