The West Virginia Mountaineers will be able to create matchup problems galore for opposing teams if Sophomore Derek Culver and Freshman Oscar Tshiebwe adjust to playing with each other this season.
However, the elephant in the room right now is that although both Culver and Tshiebwe are ultra-talented players, they may just not be able to play together at the same time. Bob Huggins might want to consider the idea of rotating the two players and not playing them together.
Senior Logan Routt and Arkansas transfer Gabe Osabuohien are very capable interior players and Huggins has the luxury of not playing Culver and Tshiebwe at the same time.
A lineup that might be more effective would be Routt starting at Center next to Tshiebwe at Power Forward. Routt, a legit 6’11/7’0 Senior, has been an effective rebounder and defender, and would be a far more ideal player to pair next to Tshiebwe.
Culver would then serve as the 6th man, replacing Tshiebwe in the lineup and taking over the bulk of the interior scoring duties. Osabuohien is a bouncy, rebounding-first power forward who would slide in perfectly next to Culver.
The next game, Culver and Osabuohien would start and Tshiebwe and Routt would come off the bench to replace them. This rotation makes far more sense and would allow Derek Culver to be Derek Culver.
Culver, who is averaging 10.8 points and 5.5 points per game on 33% shooting from the field, has struggled to figure out his newfound role for the Mountaineers this season. While he was the undisputed go-to player in the post last season for Bob Huggins, Culver has to share the role with Oscar Tshiebwe this season.
When Culver was asked about playing with Tshiebwe following West Virginia’s win against Boston University, he was open and honest about his struggles, saying, “Yeah, I’m still learning. It’s still kind of…I don’t want to say ‘strange’, but it’s different because I really had my down-low post game (last year) and that’s really what Oscar is good at, that’s what he does and I kind of have to play on the wing now and I have to figure out what I’m going to do now.”
Culver went on to say, “I’m not really scoring like I want to right now, but I think things will go pretty well towards the end of the year. Middle of the season, end of the year, we should have it figured out.”
Culver added that he’s not necessarily comfortable with where he’s at on the wing right now, but that he can adapt to it. While it’s fantastic that Culver is willing to change how and where he’s always played during his entire young career for the team, it’s unnecessary and likely actually hurting the team.
Derek Culver is not a wing player and he’s never going to be. Derek Culver is a banger, a classic post player with outstanding rebounding skills. Remember, Culver is perhaps the most dominant interior player in the Big 12 not named Udoka Azubuike (Kansas) and he shouldn’t have to change for anyone.
Culver playing alongside Tshiebwe might eventually work, but ultimately it’s not what’s best for Culver’s future playing basketball professionally and it’s likely not what’s best for the team right now.