Tuesday, May 30, 2023

WVU Loses Heartbreaker to Iowa State

(Photo by Gus Schlomer - VOM)   In absolutely gut wrenching fashion, WVU lost a heartbreaker to the Iowa State Cyclones in Ames by a final score of 84-81. The Mountaineers, who have lost 12 of their last 13 games, lost the lead late on a turnover that immediately turned into points. As it has been all season, the offense was unable to do enough to take the lead back in the final seconds with a late turnover of their own. Malik Curry led all scorers for the Mountaineers with 19, and Taz Sherman put together yet another solid performance with 15 points. Despite WVU having success at the free throw line, it simply wasn’t enough at the end. WVU returns to the court on Saturday to take on Texas. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.

West Virginia Should Be Favored Against Baylor on Tuesday

Morgantown, West Virginia - The West Virginia Mountaineers were recently blessed with perhaps the best possible remaining schedule in their regular season. Not only did the Big 12 Conference cancel West Virginia's game at Baylor previously scheduled for last Thursday, they also added three home games to close out the season.  While the WVU Coliseum will not give the Mountaineers the typical home court advantage, it's still difficult to win on the road in one of the toughest conferences in the nation. Now that the Mountaineers have taken care of business against basement-dweller Kansas State (7-19, 3-14) yesterday, they have the highly-anticipated matchup with the #2 Baylor Bears next on Tuesday to look forward to. To be clear, the Baylor Bears do not deserve to be ranked #2 in the nation.  They have been extremely impressive this season, but they've only played two games in three weeks.   One game was against the worst team in the Big 12, Iowa State, a game they only won by five points (77-72) at home, and the other was a 71-58 loss last night at Kansas, their first defeat of the season. While they may have been the second best team in the nation at one point, they are not right now.   Their lack of practice and real game action is evident, and they have looked like they have been "playing in quicksand" in the last two games. According to the Ken Pom Rankings, the Mountaineers are predicted to finish the season 2-1 with their only loss against Baylor.  Ken Pom gives West Virginia an 89% chance to beat TCU, a 69% chance to beat Oklahoma State and only a 35% chance to beat Baylor.  The predicted score for the Baylor West Virginia game is 78-74 in favor of the Bears. But remember, Ken Pom is based only on statistics this season and does not account for the tremendously long layoff for Baylor.  Baylor is not the Baylor that ripped through their opponents through the first 17 games of the season.  They are a shell of their former selves. With that said, West Virginia has gained an incredible amount of confidence over the past several weeks and now look like a team that can beat any team on any given day.  The Mountaineers are in perfect position to sweep the final three games of the regular season and win the Big 12 Tournament Championship from March 10-13th in Kansas City. And it all starts with Baylor on Tuesday.  Look for West Virginia to send Baylor back home to Waco with back to back losses and the Mountaineers one step closer to the Big 12 Championship.

WATCH: Mountaineer Hits Shot From Stands Prior to Game

(Photo by WVU Athletics)  Today, the Mountaineers travel to Lawrence, Kansas to take on the 3rd-ranked Kansas Jayhawks. With the game set to tip at 4 p.m., both teams have already been on the court warming up for the matchup. WVU Senior Guard Kedrian Johnson displayed his incredible range in a video shared by the WVU Men’s Basketball social media page. Johnson, who is averaging 10.6 points and 3.2 assists per game, made a shot from the stands at Allen Fieldhouse. https://twitter.com/wvuhoops/status/1629315582410600457?s=46&t=UkhvuUcwvUgiv504v6NHqw “Haters will say it’s fake.” The team page was quick to double down on the validity of the video and quickly put down any claims that the shot wasn’t real. The matchup between the Mountaineers and Jayhawks will be televised on ESPN.

Huggins: “No One Wants to Play Us”

Morgantown, West Virginia - During today's Big 12 Conference teleconference call, Bob Huggins was clearly upset with Texas A&M deciding to opt out of the upcoming Crossover Classic next week.  While most of the teams in the tournament have known who they will play for many weeks, West Virginia's opponent has changed multiple times and this has hurt his team preparedness going into its first game. "It's been tough.  We've been told we were going to play three or four different teams.  It's been really tough from a preparation standpoint." The Crossover Classic originally featured Duke, Utah, Ohio State, Dayton and Texas A&M, all which have since withdrawn due to COVID concerns. Huggins continued: "We've thought we were playing Texas A&M for a long time now and then they backed out.  So now we've got Northern Iowa.  They are a very good team and it's a hard game." West Virginia beat Northern Iowa 60-55 last season in the Cancun Challenge.  However, Northern Iowa was up 15 points at one point and the Mountaineers really struggled to get past them.  Northern Iowa returns their top three scorers and will not be an automatic win at all. However, Huggins knows that this is an outstanding test for his team: "You look at the path that every other team has from game one to the championship game and obviously it's far less than equal.  We just have to do what we do and hopefully this is great preparation for us in March." "I understand a lot of people don't want to play us.  They don't want to play against our size and they don't want to play against our perceived great half-court defense.  But we have been at a great disadvantage because we don't know day from day who we are going to play. Regardless of who the Mountaineers play this season, they should go in confident.  This is a loaded West Virginia team with the size, depth, athleticism and talent to beat anyone in the country.

West Virginia Basketball Fills Final Scholarship

Morgantown, West Virginia - Moments ago, the West Virginia Mountaineers filled their final available scholarship for the 2020-2021 season.  Seny Ndiaye, a 6'11 205 pound center, played for Huntington Prep in Huntington, West Virginia last season. West Virginia freshman Isaiah Cottrell was teammates with Ndiaye last season and said the following after it was announced that he was committed: "Mountaineer Nation, we got a good one!" Although Ndiaye will need to bulk up in the weight room, he is considered an elite shot-blocker and outstanding rebounder with tons of upside on offense.  Bob Huggins said that he was not in a hurry to fill the final scholarship and would wait until the perfect player for his team became available.  Seny Ndiaye appears to be the final missing piece of the puzzle for the incredibly talented West Virginia Mountaineers.

Mountaineer Player Says WVU Fans Have Told Him to Kill Himself

Morgantown, West Virginia - Following West Virginia's loss to the Syracuse Orange in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament, Emmitt Matthews, Jr. posted on his social media account to thank the West Virginia fans who have supported the team this season and to express his disappointment with the fans who have been negative. "Thank you to the true WVU fans, you know who you are.  To the ones that always have something (negative) to say, you wouldn't last a day doing what we do.  Take care." One West Virginia fan responded by saying, "These guys (the players) always have something to say about criticism.  Take a little for once." Matthews fired back with a shocking revelation: "There is difference between criticism and telling me to kill myself.  You don't know the half (of it)." https://twitter.com/THEDOOSKIE/status/1373796450962923521?s=20 This is extremely surprising and unfortunate to hear from a player that has given his best effort for the past three seasons in Morgantown.  Hopefully these "fans" are called out publicly and face consequences for their incomprehensible words to a West Virginia player.

These Mountaineers Believe in Themselves

(photo courtesy of Dale Sparks) Morgantown, West Virginia - Although the West Virginia Mountaineers have struggled and under-performed at times this season, they sit in 2nd place in the the Big 12 Conference at 13-5 overall and 6-3 in conference play. They are, quite literally, right where they need to be to compete for a Big 12 Conference Championship and potentially make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament in March. A huge win against Kansas was the perfect way to start their 6 game gauntlet, which features games at #12 Texas Tech, at home against #9 Oklahoma, back-to-back home and way games against #2 Baylor, and finally a game on the road at Texas. If the Mountaineers can win three of these six games - and I fully expect them to - they'll likely finish near the top of the Big 12 Conference and will secure a high seed for the Big 12 Championship Tournament.  On a neutral court with no or few fans in attendance, West Virginia can compete with anyone in the conference. In fact, the Mountaineers have proven that they can compete with anyone in the entire country this season.  The undisputed best, most impressive team this season, Gonzaga, was down 5 points at the half against West Virginia before narrowly escaping with an 87-82 win back in early December. Although the Mountaineers have faced adversity this season - specifically the transfer of Oscar Tshiebwe and the injury to freshman Isaiah Cottrell - they believe that they can do very special things this season. This is a very deep, confident team that has already proven that they're capable of hanging with the best teams in the country.  Not only that, but several of their top players are peaking at just the right time. Derek Culver looks more comfortable in the post without Tshiebwe and has become a real offensive/rebounding force.  Taz Sherman has become one of the elite scorers in the Big 12.  And Miles McBride is...well, Miles McBride - a natural leader and, more importantly, a winner.   While there have been more impressive teams in college basketball this season, no team has more confidence and belief in themselves than the West Virginia Mountaineers.  They are mentally strong and ready for anything they'll face over the next two months.

Sunday Morning Editorial: The Dark Days of West Virginia Sports

Morgantown, West Virginia - At no point in the history of West Virginia athletics has the football and basketball programs collectively been in such bad shape at the same time. The numbers don't lie and unfortunately West Virginia has been the worst program in the Big 12 Conference over the last 5 years. It's never been easy to be a West Virginia fan. There has been plenty of heartache and frustration over the years, but at this point we're approaching complete, widespread apathy. In football, West Virginia is 14-21 in conference play since Neal Brown has been the head coach of the Mountaineers. Only Texas Tech (13-23) and Kansas (5-30) have been worse. Overall, Brown is 22-25, West Virginia has not been in the Top 25 since 2018, there have been zero program-defining wins, no progress on the field, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel for the Mountaineers. West Virginia was 5-7 last season. While the fanbase will be told to trust the people in charge, it's difficult to see any reason for hope in 2023. West Virginia has lost numerous quality, proven players to the transfer portal and graduation and have gained mostly players who have performed well at the Group of 5 level. Adding players from Kent State, Middle Tennessee State, Towson, etc., will never be adequate enough to improve a failing Power 5 team like the Mountaineers. Yes, West Virginia also added a tight end from LSU (Kole Taylor - 5 catches, 55 yards last season), a wide receiver from NC State (25 receptions, 406 yards, 2 touchdowns in 2022) and a solid defensive lineman from Penn State (Fatorma Mulbah - no stats in 2022), but no one Neal Brown and his staff have added this offseason can come close to replacing players like Bryce Ford-Wheaton, Charles Woods, Kaden Prather, Jordan Jefferson, Mumu Bin-Wahad, JT Daniels, among many others. So the question begging to be asked is, if West Virginia was bad last year, how are they going to be better next season by downgrading their talent? A few of the new players may certainly be quality additions who could help the team, but it's simply impossible to argue that the Mountaineers have upgraded in any way heading into 2023. With a legendary, Hall of Fame head coach, you'd expect the basketball program to be in better shape, but that simply isn't the case. Over the past 5 years, West Virginia is 28-48 in Big 12 Conference play, which is 9th out of 10 teams, ahead of only Iowa State (25-51). The Mountaineers are 0-5 this season in conference play and have lost five consecutive games. West Virginia is currently 10-7 overall and although they can still be found on NCAA Tournament projections, their upcoming schedule suggests that it's going to be difficult to find another win for a really long time. West Virginia plays #17 TCU on Wednesday night, then #10 Texas, at Texas Tech, against #21 Auburn and then on the road at #17 TCU again. The Mountaineers could potentially win one or two of those games, but the team needs at least nine more wins this season to get to nineteen wins and only have fourteen games remaining. While Bob Huggins has promised that the Mountaineers are going to be better and that they are going to turn this season around, winning 9 out of 14 games to end the season seems like an impossibility at this point. Following this season, the Mountaineers lose starters Jimmy Bell, Jr., Emmitt Matthews, Jr., Kedrian Johnson and Erik Stevenson, as well as talented point guard Joe Toussaint off the bench, and West Virginia simply does not have much to get excited about left on the 2023-2024 roster. In addition, West Virginia currently has no recruits committed to play for the team and so Huggins - if he continues to coach the team next season - will once again have to rely on the transfer portal. Huggins and staff were successful in the portal this last year, but most of the players available will be one-and-done players and the whole cycle will start all over again next year. With that all said, it's hard to see any reason to be hopeful or positive about the football or basketball programs for the foreseeable future. It's truly the Dark Days of West Virginia Sports and although fans of the Mountaineers are some of the most loyal, passionate in the entire country, the product on the field and court has given West Virginia fans nothing to cheer about. https://twitter.com/voicemorgantown/status/1614425924807655428?s=20&t=b9hGnzIwJITBPJeqG6_-1Q

Bob Huggins to be an Analyst During NCAA Tournament

Morgantown, West Virginia - The West Virginia Mountaineers will not compete in any postgame tournaments this season, but Bob Huggins will remain active during the NCAA Tournament. Huggins will serve as a guest studio analysts for the NCAA Tournament on TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV. Huggins will be a guest analyst today and tomorrow, March 19th and 20th. Coverage starts at noon today. This is going to be must-see TV! https://twitter.com/mm_mbb_tv/status/1504142415929790464?s=21

West Virginia Moves Up in Latest Bracketology

Morgantown, West Virginia - Following West Virginia's upset victory over the Iowa State Cyclones last night, the Mountaineers have moved up in ESPN's Bracketology by Joe Lunardi. Lunardi's updated Bracketology was released this morning and West Virginia is currently listed as one of the "last four byes." Although still officially on the bubble, the Mountaineers are now listed as a 10 seed and gained a lot of breathing room with their victory over Iowa State. West Virginia, 17-13 overall and 6-11 in the Big 12 Conference, is 24th in the NET Rankings and has one of the most challenging schedules in the country. According to Bracketology, the Mountaineers are most likely to play #7 seed Maryland in the West Bracket in Sacramento, California. However, West Virginia still has one regular season game remaining against Kansas State and then the Big 12 Conference Championship to add to their growing resume. If the Mountaineers can beat Kansas State on Saturday and win a game or two in the Big 12 Championship, they could continue to move up in the NCAA Tournament.

Former Mountaineer Says He Has No Interest in Joining Best Virginia

Morgantown, West Virginia - Former West Virginia Mountaineers forward Derek Culver spoke out earlier today on Instagram Live about some of the questions he frequently receives from West Virginia fans. One question that he mentioned that he gets asked a lot is whether he will join the Best Virginia, the West Virginia alumni team that competes in the TBT each summer. Culver, who has played with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and Wisconsin Herd of the NBA G League since leaving West Virginia, said he has no interest in joining Best Virginia this summer. "Stop asking me about playing TBT! I'm not an alumni like that. I'm going to be in the league next year. Don't ask me about the TBT team anymore! I do not want to be on that team." Culver left West Virginia early after averaging 14.3 points and 9.4 rebounds per game for the Mountaineers as a junior during the 2020-2021 season. Best Virginia, who will compete for the $1 million prize this summer, currently has former Mountaineers Kevin Jones, John Flowers and Jaysean Paige, as well as former Fairmont State player Jamel Morris, on the roster.

The REAL Reason Miles McBride Left WVU

Morgantown, West Virginia - Bob Huggins loves to win.  While he certainly has his players' best interest in mind, has he ever told one of his players that it was a good time to leave early and go to the NBA? Huggins is old school and cautious and again, he wants to win.   But Miles McBride absolutely made the right decision by remaining in the 2021 NBA Draft, ending his time in Morgantown. McBride was absolutely sensational at last month's NBA Combine.  He exceeded expectations in every way.  He was bigger, stronger, faster and more mature than NBA executives previously thought. McBride showed that he could shoot from the NBA three point distance (23 feet, 9 inches), his athleticism was off the charts, and his measurables (height, size of hands, wingspan etc.) were far better than expected.  Defensive drills showed what we already knew, that he can play defense. In other words, McBride proved that he's ready.   McBride worked out and interviewed with several teams and he made an intelligent decision.  When teams are impressed with a player - like several teams were with Deuce - they often make verbal promises to draft the player if he's available when their pick is up. McBride worked out with the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics, and then he skipped the Combine scrimmages.  That was pretty clear indication that McBride felt confident that he had nothing left to prove.  While other players battled it out in scrimmages, McBride was clearly told that he didn't need to participate. While many people will selfishly say that McBride should have returned for another year at West Virginia, it's very, very unlikely that he would have improved his draft stock and he would have risked injury.  An injury - even a relatively minor one - would have put his chances at millions of dollars at risk. Miles McBride will certainly be missed in Morgantown, but he absolutely made the right decision for himself and his family.

Who is Next to Transfer or Leave the Mountaineers?

  The West Virginia Mountaineers will look very different next year than they look this season, and some of the players who will leave the team might come as a bit of a surprise.  Listed below are the current Mountaineers who are likely to leave, could possibly leave, unlikely to leave and the players who are definitely staying: Likely   Oscar Tshiebwe - While he is not fully NBA-ready, his body is very mature and he has a knack for rebounding like no one else in college basketball.  The idea of Tshiebwe being a one-and-done player seemed unlikely prior to this season, but he has exceeded expectations and has shown that he can compete physically with anyone and has limitless potential for the future.   Possible   Derek Culver - Make no mistake about it, Derek Culver is frustrated in West Virginia's offense and his body language reeks of unhappiness while on the court.  Although both are extremely talented, Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe don't play well next to each other.  If Tshiebwe moves on to the NBA next season, Culver is far more likely to return.  If Tshiebwe returns, there's an outside chance that Culver considers going elsewhere.   Emmitt Matthews, Jr. and Jordan McCabe - This season has been an extremely frustrating, disappointing season for each of these players personally, but neither seem like the type of individuals who would ever quit on a team or give up when things get tough.  Matthews and McCabe are leaders of this team, but lack of playing time could cause these two players who seemed destined to finish their careers as Mountaineers to transfer.   Unlikely/Not Happening   Sean McNeil or Taz Sherman - Both McNeil and Sherman were highly-regarded junior college players and could have gone virtually anywhere in the offseason.  Neither can be very happy with how this season has gone individually.  One of the players will get far more playing time next season with Jermaine Haley graduating, but both likely feel that they should start and the one who doesn't win the starting job could be gone. Definitely Staying   Gabe Osabuohien and Miles McBride - Osabuohien and McBride fit into Bob Huggins' system perfectly and will be two key players for West Virginia's future.  Osabuohien will get more time with Tshiebwe potentially moving on and McBride should be the Mountaineers' starting point guard for the next three seasons.   Players Graduating:  Chase Harler, Logan Routt and Jermaine Haley Key Additions: Jalen Bridges, Isaiah Cottrell, Kedrian Johnson and Taj Thweatt

The Case for West Virginia’s Next Director of Athletics

Morgantown, West Virginia - What we've learned very clearly over the past several seasons of West Virginia sports is that Shane Lyons ain't it.  Lyons, who has been the director of athletics at West Virginia University since 2015, has made decisions that have put the athletic department in quite a bind. Lyons' contract extension last season for head football coach Neal Brown was questionable at best. With four years left on the contract at the time, Lyons locked Brown in for six seasons through 2026 and gave him a raise, pushing his yearly salary to an average of $3,975,000 per season. This after Brown was 11-11 overall as the head coach of the Mountaineers and coming off a 6-4 record and a bowl victory in the Liberty Bowl over Army. "Coach Brown and I are committed to the future success of our football program," Lyons said in a statement released after the contract extension. "I am pleased with the upward trajectory of the program and its culture. Our student-athletes have excelled on the field and in the classroom, and the overall leadership of Mountaineer football is strong." Lyons later gave a much more thorough explanation of why he decided to extend Brown: "You know, things don’t change overnight and I believe in Neal Brown and in his vision.  I know what this football program can be.  And I looked at it and felt like last Spring our football program was in good hands.  I knew we were still young coming into this football season, but felt like Neal’s name had been brought up a couple of different times about other possibilities. What I was trying to do was lock down Neal in case we had a better season than we did (this year). 6-6, I get it, people talk about the mediocrity, but we’re a couple of games also from being 8-4, 9-3, etc. If you look at the number of job openings this year, Neal Brown would have been a guy that would have easily been picked off from other schools.  So I had to take his buyout to a higher amount but by doing that, I had to change the contract. If that happened, the fanbase would be asking just the opposite.  Why did you let this happen?  If he had 9 wins and his name was mentioned a lot, people would’ve said ‘Why didn’t Shane Lyons do this earlier?’ I look at it just I like I do with everything in business. I believe his stock is going to continue to rise and I believe in what we’re doing as a whole. A lot of people just see what happens on Saturdays on the field, I get to see what happens seven days a week.  Yes, it’s result-oriented and I’m not getting away from that, but it’s also a lot of other things that go into that. Every time you make a coaching change, you’re setting yourself back at least another 3 years.  So I’m looking at it as Neal is in year three of contract and I expect to really see the results in the next couple of years." However, we're still awaiting the results. At 3-3 and a very challenging Big 12 Conference schedule looming, West Virginia will be lucky to finish the season with a .500 record at this point. While the expectations have not been met in his 4th season, firing Neal Brown will be difficult because of the massive contract buyout that Lyons gave Brown last season. The university will owe Brown an enormous sum of money if he's fired and although that's certainly something the university could do, it's far from ideal. In other words, Lyons' poor decision-making has really put the university in a very difficult situation and he should be held accountable for his actions. The only way to truly hold him accountable is by firing him. He's potentially cost the university millions and millions of dollars from lost revenue from poor attendance and lack of merchandise sales due to poor on-the-field performance, and if/when West Virginia ultimately fires Neal Brown, that will cost the university even more. Finding a replacement for Lyons would be difficult. He is widely respected around the country and holds the prestigious title of Chairman of the Division I Football Oversight Committee. Only one person could truly fill the void left if Lyons is fired as the director of athletics at West Virginia University. Bob Huggins. Huggins, 69, is aging and despite his continued passion for the game of basketball, the demands of travel will likely soon become too difficult for him. No one cares more about the success of West Virginia athletics than Huggins and like Lyons, he is respected around the country. In addition, Huggins could naturally slide into his new role as director of athletics after retiring and choose his successor as the next head coach of the men's basketball team. This new role would allow him to continue to be a very active part of West Virginia athletics without the demand of traveling and the stresses of being the head coach of a major college basketball program. If there's anyone that can be trusted to make decisions that would truly benefit West Virginia University and the state of West Virginia, it's Bob Huggins.

Starting Lineup Announced For Matchup Against Kansas

(Photo by WVU Athletics)    WVU is set to take on the Kansas Jayhawks at the WVU Coliseum in Morgantown today. The game tips-off at 2 p.m. and will broadcast on CBS. Shortly ago, WVU’s starting lineup for the contest was officially announced via the team’s social media pages. The lineup is as follows: Miles McBride Emmitt Matthews Taz Sherman Jalen Bridges Derek Culver https://twitter.com/wvuhoops/status/1358124191246123015?s=21