Sioux Falls, South Dakota – When the West Virginia Mountaineers take the court for the first time this season, they will play against a team with a 24 game win streak, a team that returns all of its starters and 90% of its scoring back from last season, a South Dakota State team that is dangerous and capable of pulling an upset.
For the Jackrabbits, it all starts with Summit League Player of the Year, senior forward Douglas Wilson, who averaged 18.6 points per game, 6.4 rebounds and shot an outstanding 62.8 percent from the floor last season.
Wilson overpowered Summit League opponents last season, but West Virginia’s interior will key on him and should be able to overwhelm him. While Wilson is a very good athlete, he does not have the size or strength of Oscar Tshiewbe, Derek Culver, Gabe Osabuohien or even Emmitt Matthews, Jr.
6’8 junior forward Matt Dentlinger averaged 12.2 points and 6.0 rebounds per game while shooting a league-best 68.7% from the field, but he lacks athleticism and will struggle against the Mountaineers’ interior defense.
With Wilson and Dentlinger negated for most of the game, the Jackrabbits will have to rely on sophomore guards Noah Friedel and David Wingett, who averaged 12.2 and 8.4 points per game respectively last season.
Friedel, the Summit League Freshman of the Year, shot 39.5 percent from three point range and 85.2% from the foul line last season, and is a player that could get hot and cause problems for the Mountaineers. Wingett is a left-handed big guard at 6’7 who lacks athleticism but is a player that West Virginia will need to keep an eye on because he hit about 40% of his shots from three point range last season.
Rounding out the starting five is junior guard Alex Arians, who is another big guard that can score and rebound. Arians averaged 9.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per game for the Jackrabbits last season.
This is a team that plays fundamentally-sound and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. If SDSU can get hot from behind the three point line and West Virginia struggles, this could be a lot closer game than expected. This is a cohesive unit that won’t be intimidated by the Mountaineers.
With that said, West Virginia’s size, strength and depth should be enough to advance in the 1st round of the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic. Look for the game to remain close throughout the first half with the Mountaineers pulling away comfortably in the 2nd half.
WVU 76 SDSU 55
Projected Starting Lineups:
WVU – McBride, Sherman, Matthews, Tshiebwe, Culver
SDSU – Friedel, Arians, Wingett, Dentlinger, Wilson