Morgantown, West Virginia – Former Kansas Jayhawk and current Charlotte Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham was on The Truck Bryant Podcast recently. Bryant asked Graham about playing for Kansas and his time playing against the West Virginia Mountaineers. Graham said he hated to play West Virginia. Not only only were they physical and tough, Graham said, they pressed full court and made it impossible to get into a rhythm on offense.
“Press Virginia” was born out of necessity. When West Virginia entered the Big 12 in 2013, the team struggled to compete in the new league. In the first season in the Big 12, the Mountaineers finished 13-19 and 6-13 in the conference. In 2014, West Virginia went 17-16 and 9-9.
Head Coach Bob Huggins knew that changes would have to be made for the Mountaineers to get his team over the hump and this is how “Press Virginia” started. Huggins was flexible and adapted a full-court press on virtually every possession. Opposing teams were confused and couldn’t handle the pressure for the entire game.
Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles were only Freshmen, but their toughness and competitiveness was already shining through. The team also featured Seniors Juwan Staten and Gary Browne, Juniors Jonathan Holton and Jaysean Paige, and Sophomores Tarik Phillip, Devin Williams and Nathan Adrian. In other words, the Mountaineers were loaded.
The “Press Virginia” era featured seasons where the Mountaineers finished 25-10, 26-9, 28-9, 26-11 with four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.
Over the past couple of seasons, the Mountaineers have lacked the depth and athleticism to run the press effectively. However, that won’t be a problem this season.
Emmitt Matthews, Jr. and Isaiah Cottrell both have the length and size to be a disruptive force at the head of the press in the Jonathan Holton/Nathan Adrian role, Miles McBride is a comparable defender to Jevon Carter in his Freshman season, and this year’s team is athletic and deep at every position.
Not only will the press wear out and confuse opponents, it will also lead to turnovers, which will inevitably lead to easy baskets on the other end. While the “Press Virginia” teams of the past struggled to shoot from the perimeter, they scored many points off of turnovers and were able to stay with teams simply by creating chaos defensively. In addition, this year’s version of Press Virginia has scorers that create their own shots and get baskets from the perimeter.
The Mountaineers are once again 10-12 players deep and virtually every player on the team can contribute in some way. A constant, full-court, chaotic press combined with a loaded roster will make the 2020-2021 teams one of the most difficult teams to prepare for in the country. If West Virginia is struggling to score offensively during a game this season, they will still be able to choke opponents to death with the constant pressure of “Press Virginia.”