Have the Mountaineers Really Improved?

Morgantown, West Virginia – There was incredibly hype surrounding the West Virginia Mountaineers during the offseason – the team was  supposed to be bigger, stronger, more fundamentally sound, and, perhaps most importantly, far better shooters.

Head Coach Bob Huggins sang the praises of his guards during preseason practices, saying, “They’re not shooting it good, they’re shooting it really good.  We’re going to make shots this season.”

Through five games, the Mountaineers are shooting 31.9% from three point range, which is currently 172nd out of 295 eligible teams.  That’s not bad, it’s terrible and certainly does not represent an improvement from last season.

But West Virginia isn’t just shooting poorly from long distance, they are struggling from everywhere on the court.  For a team that should be focused on getting the ball to its strong interior players and getting easy inside shots, West Virginia is making only 40.3% of its field goal attempts, which is 227th out of 295 teams.

The struggles don’t end with the poor shooting, however.  The Mountaineers also haven’t done a particularly great job of taking care of the ball either.  Through the first five games, West Virginia’s assist-to-turnover ratio 67 assists to 54 turnovers (1.24), good for 86th in college basketball.

West Virginia has routinely been in the top five in the nation in overall rebounds and offensive rebounds, but this season, they are currently ranked 12th in offensive rebounds (15.6 per game) and 157th in defensive rebounds (26.4 per game).  The Mountaineers rank 86th in rebounding margin, only out-rebounding their opponents by 5 per game.

Offensively, it’s difficult to find any area that the Mountaineers have improved since last season.  The issues that West Virginia has had for years under Bob Huggins – making perimeter shots and taking care of the basketball – continues to be a major problem.

Defensively, it doesn’t get much better for West Virginia.  The team is 166th in the country in opponents’ points per game, allowing 71.8 points through the first five games.

While the Mountaineers are off to a solid 4-1 start and are currently ranked 11th in the AP poll and 10th in the Coaches Poll, they have not cleaned up the areas of concerns from last season.  In order to be a true national championship contender, West Virginia will need to shoot better, take care of the basketball better, rebound better and play better defense.

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Brad Smith
Brad Smith, "The Voice of Morgantown", is the most trusted, accomplished name in West Virginia sports journalism. Smith is the foremost, preeminent authority on West Virginia athletics and a lifelong fan of the Mountaineers. Smith, a proud graduate of West Virginia University, resides in Morgantown most of the year, but has a home in Jacksonville, Florida, where he lives during the winter.