Tuesday, May 30, 2023

WVU Faces a Tough December

The Mountaineers did what they had to do in the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic, and are now sitting at 3-0 with another trophy in their case. Though there is reason to celebrate right now, the fun is really just starting for West Virginia. The Gold and Blue now turn the page to a difficult December ahead of them. To start things off with a bang, West Virginia goes right to the top and will play Gonzaga, who is the top ranked team in the nation. The Bulldogs are currently 2-0 on the season, winning both of their first two games handily - including a 102-90 win over fellow Big 12 member, the Kansas Jayhawks. West Virginia will then hit the road for their first true road game of the season to take on the Georgetown Hoyas. Though this isn’t your typical grandfather’s Georgetown squad, they always have talent, and this road trip will be tricky for the Mountaineers. The Mountaineers will finally get three winnable home games back-to-back-to-back against Robert Morris, Richmond, and Iowa State before their toughest road trip of the season. On December 22nd, West Virginia will travel to the Phog to take on the Kansas Jayhawks, a place they have yet to leave victorious since joining the Big 12. To close the month of December, West Virginia will host Buffalo on the 29th. The last time the Bulls visited Morgantown, they emerged with a 99-94 upset victory over the then 13th ranked Mountaineers. If West Virginia hopes to have a magical season, they have to navigate this rigorous early schedule. How they perform in the month of December will determine just if the championship hopes can be met in Morgantown this year.

WVU’s Starting Lineup Against Kansas State Announced

(Photo by The Associated Press)    Moments ago, the WVU Men’s Basketball social media pages officially released the team’s starting lineup for today’s game. The lineup is as follows below: Miles McBride Jordan McCabe Taz Sherman Jalen Bridges Derek Culver   https://twitter.com/wvuhoops/status/1353080157800714244?s=21      

Miles McBride and Bob Huggins: A Match Made in Almost Heaven

Miles McBride isn't Jevon Carter.  To compare him to one of the greatest players in West Virginia history would be unfair and not realistic.  However, there are such startling similarities that it's difficult to ignore them.  Great listeners, hardworkers, incredible winners, severely underrated out of high school, McBride and Carter are "Bob Huggins' guys." Bob Huggins was the perfect coach for Jevon Carter and Jevon Carter was the perfect player for Bob Huggins.  During the four years they were together at West Virginia University, their record was 105-39 and they went to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments.  They not only share the same dedication to hard work and effort, they also are the ultimate winners. In Jevon Carter’s exquisite “Treadmill Mentality”, Carter remembers, “See, it was like this at West Virginia: The only thing that mattered to Coach was that we played harder, every single play, than the other team.” When Huggins first saw Carter playing in Orlando during one of his high school games, Huggins knew immediately that he wanted Carter on his team. Carter was the only player on his team pressing all over the court and Huggins called his assistants and said they needed to get this guy.  They asked what he does well and Huggins replied, “I don’t know, but he tries to guard.” “He was on the furthest court that you could be on. I went over there and was trying to drink my coffee and wake up, and this guy is pressing at 8 a.m. No one else on his team is pressing, just him.” - Bob Huggins on Jevon Carter It’s a shame that they could only be together for four years.  Bob Huggins would be thrilled to have Jevon Carter on his team for the remainder of his career, but unfortunately that cannot happen.  Enter Miles McBride.  McBride, the 6’1 combo guard out of Cincinnati, was underrated as a player coming out of high school.  Like Carter, he understands the value of working hard and can’t wait to get on campus in Morgantown to get started. When asked what he’s most looking for at WVU, McBride replied, “Definitely the Bob Huggins’ practices, for sure.  I heard the treadmill is a great place to be.  Coach Huggins is a Hall of Fame coach, he knows his stuff and I just can’t wait to listen and learn from him.” It would be unfair to compare McBride to one of the greatest players in West Virginia basketball history, but he’s certainly the type of player that Bob Huggins loves and perhaps Huggins will have as much fun and success coaching him as he did Jevon Carter.

West Virginia Once Again Robbed of Top 25 Recognition

Morgantown, West Virginia - The West Virginia Mountaineers (11-1) have once again been left out of the Top 25. The Mountaineers, who have won eight consecutive games, actually dropped a spot in the "others receiving votes" category to #28, despite winning a tough game at UAB. https://twitter.com/AP_Top25/status/1475514535536640000?s=20 West Virginia will be back in action on Saturday, January 1st at noon in Austin, Texas against the 17th ranked Texas Longhorns (9-2).

Expert Predicts WVU’s New Starting Lineup

Morgantown, West Virginia - Now that Miles McBride, Derek Culver and Emmitt Matthews Jr. have moved on, West Virginia’s starting lineup will look very different for the upcoming season. CBS Sports College Basketball Insider Job Rothstein predicts the following lineup for the 2021-2022 Mountaineers: PG Malik Curry SG Sean McNeil SF Taz Sherman PF Gabe Osabuohien C Isaiah Cottrell Interestingly, Rothstein left sophomore sensation Jalen Bridges out of the starting lineup. This would leave Bridges, Seny Ndiaye, Kedrian Johnson, Taj Thweatt, as well as transfer newcomers Pauly Paulicap and Dimon Carrigan, and freshmen Seth Wilson and Kobe Johnson off the bench for the Mountaineers. What is your prediction for the 2021-2022 West Virginia Mountaineers?  Let us know in the comments! https://twitter.com/jonrothstein/status/1411335259963199495?s=21

Oscar Tshiebwe and Kentucky Wildcats Eliminated in 1st Round of NCAA Tournament

Morgantown, West Virginia - The #2 seeded Kentucky Wildcats were upset by the 15th seeded Saint Peter's Peacocks of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, 85-79! Number 15 seeds are only 9-135 against No. 2 seeds since 1985 in the NCAA Tournament, so this is a truly massive upset. Oscar Tshiebwe was dominant in the loss, finishing the game with 30 points and 16 rebounds. It's now unclear whether Tshiebwe, a junior, will return for another season at Kentucky, or if he will declare for the NBA Draft. https://twitter.com/Outkick/status/1504635018945216513?s=20&t=zwEX95Spyxfvg1Yl0O7cug

Who is VCU?

Last night, the Mountaineers advanced to the semifinals of the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic with a 79-71 victory over the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. Their opponent in the semifinal round, VCU, also advanced with an 85-69 win over Utah State. The VCU Rams represent Virginia Commonwealth University located in Richmond, Virginia. They are led by Mike Rhodes, who is in his fourth season with the team. The Rams finished with an 18-13 record for the 2019-2020 season, as well as an 8-10 record in conference. In their season opener, they shot lights out against the Aggies. As a team, the Rams shot 52.8% from the floor, including 41.7% from three. However, they struggled to make an impact rebounding the ball, losing the overall battle 28 to 35, while only nabbing four offensive rebounds. Though they are no dumpster fire, VCU is a team that the Mountaineers should be able to put away in the second half. They have enough talent to make it interesting early, but the star power of the Mountaineers will wear down the outmanned Rams in crunch time.

Sean McNeil Could Average 30 Points Per Game

West Virginia's Sophomore shooting guard Sean McNeil is the best pure shooter to play for the Mountaineers since Chris Leonard.  Leonard is WVU's all time three point percentage leader at 41.7% during his career from 1989-1992.  Jerry West, Alex Ruoff, Kevin Pittsnogle, Patrick Beilein and Frank Young could also all make a case for being West Virginia's best shooter ever, but this article is not about who the most accomplished three-point shooter to ever play at the Coliseum. Rather, this is about Sean McNeil and his dazzling start to his West Virginia career.  McNeil, who is averaging 7.1 points per game as a reserve for the Mountaineers through the first ten games, is shooting 44.4% from three point range and has been a consistent spark off the bench early on.  Dazzling might be a strong word, but what more could West Virginia Head Coach Bob Huggins expect to get from him so far? McNeil's playing time has been limited, averaging only 14.9 minutes per game, but if he had more court time, he could easily score 30 points a game.  In fact, when he has played extra minutes during close games when the Mountaineers needed his point production, he's stepped up and been the team's go-to scorer during spans this season. If Bob Huggins needed him to play more minutes and made McNeil a priority in the offense, he could easily average 30 points a game right now.  He's not incredibly gifted athletically, but he's shifty, a very solid passer, a sneaky good defensive player and he could be the best shooter in the Big 12 Conference. Last season, McNeil led the nation in scoring (29.7 points per game) as well as 4.3 3 point field goals made per game at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio. West Virginia is a deep, talented team that doesn't need one scorer to get all of the points, but Sean McNeil is capable of going off on any given night.  McNeil is an accomplished scorer and he has two full seasons remaining following this one to chase some of the all-time great West Virginia shooters' records, and I wouldn't be surprised if he surpassed them.

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  

Who finishes, not who starts, is what matters for WVU

There was quite a buzz among West Virginia fans when coach Bob Huggins shuffled the Mountaineers starting lineup for their 65-47 win over Oklahoma State on Tuesday night. But the end result, as William Shakespere might see it, was much ado about nothing. “It didn’t seem like (starting lineup change) helped us much,” Huggins said after the win. Huggins replaced Jordan McCabe and Derek Culver with Miles McBride and Taz Sherman in the WVU starting lineup Tuesday night. The move was Huggins attempt to get an offensive spark from a team that was riding a three-game losing streak and couldn't seem to find the basket. The Mountaineers shot 32.4 percent from the field during their three-game slide in losses to Oklahoma, Kansas and Baylor. Sherman was a lone bright spot during that stretch - at least against Baylor - as he put up 20 points in that loss. He hit 6 of 11 from the field, including 5 of 9 from 3-point range. McBride has proven to be a capable - albeit inconsistent - scorer during his freshman season. But as Huggins said, it didn’t work. Sherman’s hot shooting from Waco, Texas, didn’t catch the plane back to Morgantown. Sherman finished 4-for-11 from the field and just 1 of 6 from 3-point range Tuesday night. He and Sherman started 0-for-7 from the field in their new roles as starters. Here’s the thing: Nothing carries more overvalued importance with this team than who starts. While McBride did see an increase in minutes with the switch, playing 31 minutes Tuesday night compared to 17 in the loss to Baylor, the change didn’t dramatically affect the minutes of the others. Culver played 20 minutes off the bench Tuesday night but saw only 12 minutes of floor time as a starter at Baylor. Sherman played 22 minutes in each game, once as a starter and the other off the bench. McCabe saw less time Tuesday night than he did as a starter against Baylor. But didn’t see much in either (eight minutes against Baylor, four against Oklahoma State). The reason who starts and comes off the bench isn’t that important is twofold. First, Huggins plays 10 to 11 players with relative regularity. McCabe has started 25 of the Mountaineers 26 games yet he is ninth in minutes played (12.4 per game). Chase Harler and Sean McNeil, among others, see more floor time than regular starter McCabe. No West Virginia player averages as many as 24 minutes a game. Which brings us to the second reason why the starting lineup isn’t that important for WVU. This team doesn’t have one or two players who are significantly better than the rest. Culver and freshman Oscar Tshiebwe lead the team in minutes played (23.8 per game). They also lead the team in scoring and rebounding (Tshiebwe 11.4 point per game, 9.4 rebounds per game; Culver 10.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg). But those totals aren’t significantly greater than their teammates. McBride is third on the team in scoring (9.5 ppg) despite only getting a start Tuesday night. Jermaine Haley averages 9.1 points and 23 minutes a game. Fans (and, oftentimes, players) make quite the fuss as to who is and is not in the starting lineup. If only Huggins would start this player instead of that one, then the Mountaineers would find their offensive firepower, the thinking goes. But the truth is, especially with this team, it’s not that important who starts the game. What matters much more is who finishes it.

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.

The Streaming Service is NOT the Answer for MANY West Virginians

The huge college basketball game today featuring the #16 ranked West Virginia Mountaineers and the #2 Kansas Jayhawks will be shown exclusively on the relatively new streaming service ESPN+.  While the service itself is not a problem, it creates a dilemma for residents of our state. West Virginia is far behind other states when it comes to technology and many of its residents are not particularly tech-savvy.  Subscribing to and figuring out how to log in to ESPN Plus is not a particularly easy task, as I recently discovered when trying to explain the process to my father. It would be wonderful if learning to use this service wouldn’t require a Doctorate Degree in Information Technology.  The problem West Virginians have with only being able to watch West Virginia play on this platform is multi-faceted. To begin, the idea of paying $4.99 to see the Mountaineers is not the problem.  Like most West Virginians, I would pay any reasonable amount to watch the game.  While no one wants to pay extra, it’s not an exorbitant amount to watch a game live and in High Definition. Rather, the real issue lies with the state of West Virginia’s very poor high speed internet.  Frontier Communications, the largest internet provider in the state, is unreliable on its best days and woefully, painfully awful on its worst days.  The idea of constant buffering, delays and outages does not make for a great gameday experience.  Most of the state will suffer through these conditions and this fanbase absolutely deserves better.   The whole state of West Virginia, all of its people, love the Mountaineers and should be able to watch the game.  This includes young people with outstanding WIFi capable of figuring out how to use ESPN Plus and those with terrible internet access unable to figure out how to download and watch the game on ESPN Plus. Like the West Virginia versus Kansas football game this past season, many, many fans are not going to be able to view the game, or they will have to view it through choppy buffering.  West Virginia fans are some of the very best in the country and deserve better than this.

Caleb Grill in a West Virginia Uniform

Morgantown, West Virginia - Iowa State transfer guard Caleb Grill has been in Morgantown since Sunday and is expected today, and it appears that he is not yet ready to commit to play for the Mountaineers just yet. Grill, a 6'3 guard who averaged 9.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per game as a starter for the Cyclones last season, has been a priority for the West Virginia coaching staff who is attempting to fill the void of a shooting wing in the starting lineup. However, it looks like Grill will leave Morgantown without committing. Grill posted a picture of himself on social media with the caption "Not committed." Grill also visited Missouri recently and is said to be deciding between the two schools, but he could potentially add more visits in the coming days. https://twitter.com/voicemorgantown/status/1648474461564461057?s=20

The Case Against Bob Huggins Being in the Hall of Fame

On a recent episode of the Good N' Plenty Podcast with Jeff Goodman, West Virginia Head Coach Bob Huggins was asked, "What would it mean to you to be inducted into the Hall of Fame?" Huggins reply was short and sweet: "I think it's a tremendous honor, but I don't think it's what people want to make it out for me.  It's a great honor and I'm not downplaying it at all, but I haven't done what I've done to get into the Hall of Fame.  I've done what I've done because I love the game of basketball, I've grown up with basketball, I've loved the players that we've had and the stories that we will always have.  I love the fun that we've had and I love that there isn't a day that goes by where one of them doesn't call to just check in with me and see how I'm doing.  To me, that means more than anything in the world." Huggins has been nominated twice and many feel that he deserves the recognition of being inducted into the Hall of Fame, but he remains on the outside looking in.  Although he is sixth all time in wins by a Division I head coach -behind only Roy Williams, Jim Calhoun, Bob Knight, Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski - there is something keeping him out in the eyes of the voters. Like all West Virginians, I believe that he should have already been inducted, but playing Devil's Advocate, what more could Huggins do to win over the Hall of Fame voters? Win a National Championship.  Huggins is one of only ten coaches in college basketball history with 800 or more victories, he's been to 24 NCAA tournaments, has led his teams to nine Sweet Sixteen appearances, four Elite Eights and two Final Fours, but he has never won a national championship, which is ultimately what separates him from Roy Williams, Jim Calhoun, Bob Knight, Jim Boeheim and Coach K.  In addition, while he recently passed Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith in total career win, they both have three national championships between them. Although Huggins has led one of the cleanest basketball programs in the nation, his embarrassing dismissal from Cincinnati following a drunk and driving arrest back in 2005 has been a permanent black eye on his otherwise flawless record as a head coach.  This, of course, is unfortunate, but the Hall of Fame expects their candidates to be pillars on and off the court.  With that said, could one bad night 15 years ago really be the determining factor of what he's done on and off the court during rest of his long and illustrious career? A lack of a national championship and the arrest in 2005 are the only two possible explanations for him not being inducted by now.  However, numbers don't lie and Bob Huggins has produced wins better than almost anyone in the history of the game.  Huggins' 2020-2021 team is as talented as any team he's ever coached before, and this very well could be the year where he joins the greatest coaches of all time with a national championship to accompany all of his other accomplishments.

Must Win Game in Morgantown Today

Morgantown, West Virginia - When the 17th ranked West Virginia Mountaineers, 12-5 overall and 5-3 in Big 12 Conference play, host the #23 ranked Kansas Jayhawks (12-6, 6-4) inside the Coliseum today at 2:00, it very well could be a must win for the Mountaineers. West Virginia's upcoming schedule is absolutely brutal.  Following today's game, they travel to play #12 Texas Tech, then the Mountaineers host the 9th ranked Oklahoma Sooners and the #2 ranked Baylor Bears, and then will travel to play Baylor again in Waco, Texas, before playing #6 Texas on the road. https://twitter.com/voicemorgantown/status/1357868435179507713?s=20 This is perhaps the most challenging six game stretch that the Mountaineers have ever faced, and every game will be a battle to win.  If West Virginia loses today's game, it's conceivable that they won't win another game until they play Kansas State at home on February 27th. That would put the Mountaineers at 12-11 overall and 5-9 in the Big 12 Conference, which would essentially eliminate them from the NCAA Tournament.  Entering this season, missing the NCAA Tournament did not seem like a realistic possibility.  Now, it appears like it could absolutely happen if they don't play well down the stretch. Today's matchup with Kansas could be the start of a tremendous stretch where the Mountaineers prove that they are among the elite in the Big 12 Conference, or it could be the beginning of a terrible month of February that leaves them ineligible to play in March. To win today, the Mountaineers must better contain the Jayhawks' three point shooting.  Back in late December, Kansas shot 16-37 from the point range and ran away with a 79-65 victory in Lawrence.  Since then, Kansas has struggled from the perimeter, particularly on the road, and that must continue for West Virginia to win today. Ultimately, West Virginia is a far better, more consistent team than Kansas right now, and they should have no problem getting the win today.  A win to begin their 6 game Big 12 Conference Gauntlet will go a long way in preparing the Mountaineers for a deep run in March.