West Virginia Faces a Very Average Opponent Today

(Photo courtesy of WVU Sports)

Sioux Falls, South Dakota – The West Virginia Mountaineers (1-0) advanced to the 2nd round of the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic after beating a stingy South Dakota State team in the opening round.

The Mountaineers will now play the Virginia Commonwealth (VCU) Rams today at 2:30PM on ESPN.  VCU defeated Utah State 85-69 in their opening round game, outscoring the Aggies 47-28 in the second half.

Virginia Commonwealth finished 18-13 overall and 8-10 in the Atlantic 10 Conference, and lost virtually all of their key starters from last season. Nah’Shon Hyland is the only returner from last season’s top six scorers for VCU.  Hyland averaged 9.0 points per game and shot 43.3% from three point range last season.

In VCU’s opening game against Utah State, Hyland led the Rams, scoring 23 points while shooting 50% from the field and 50% from three point range.

Outside of Hyland, the roster was almost entirely overturned with new players.  Junior forward Vince Williams had a strong game last night, scoring 15 points while adding five rebounds and 4 assists. The Rams shot 41.7 percent from three point range and 86.4 percent from the free throw line.

West Virginia’s size and depth should again be too much for VCU.  VCU doesn’t have a player over 6’8 and starts three guards.  If West Virginia can get the ball to the basket – something they did not do in the opening round against South Dakota State – and make perimeter shots, they shouldn’t have any problem getting by VCU today.

Improvements that I would like to see today from the Mountaineers:

  • Better interior defense.  South Dakota State players were able to get into the lane and to the basket for easy shots too often in the opener.  West Virginia’s bigs must be better defensively in the lane.
  • Shoot better.  West Virginia shot 30/77 (39%) from the field and 8/32 (25%) from three point range.  That just won’t get it done against quality opponents.
  • Better teamwork.  The Mountaineers only had 11 assists against South Dakota State and relied too much on one-on-one play.  One positive note is that West Virginia only had 3 turnovers in the opener.
  • Play with more energy and enthusiasm.  Most of the team looked like they were going through the motions last night.  As Bob Huggins said in the post game, we really don’t know how many games the Mountaineers will get to play this season and players should really value and appreciate each time they step on the court.
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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.