Morgantown, West Virginia – Maybe our expectations were too high. Perhaps we expected too much too soon. But the West Virginia Mountaineers, despite beating three quality opponents and winning the Crossover Classic Championship, do not appear to be as good as the hype surrounding them in the offseason suggested.
I can’t think of one area that the Mountaineers have improved on. Although we’ve heard countless times West Virginia is a much better shooting team, that is clearly not the case.
Through the first two games, the Mountaineers shot 40% from the field and 29.2% from three point range. In the championship game of the Crossover Classic, the team was better from the perimeter but also had far fewer attempts from three point range (5-12, 41.7%).
Huggins’ offense hasn’t changed since he arrived in Morgantown in 2007 and is very predictable. If West Virginia’s guards can’t hit perimeter shots, the offense is extremely stagnant. The Mountaineers too often settle for perimeter shots from its forwards (Tshiebwe, Culver, Osabuohien, Cottrell, etc.) and that is not a way to win many tough games.
The West Virginia defense allowed far too many easy points under the basket. The interior defense in the first three games of the season is the worst that the Mountaineers have played during Huggins’ entire time at West Virginia.
In the season opener, South Dakota State’s undersized and unathletic players were able to get to the basket at will. VCU and Western Kentucky had more talented athletes, and were able to get several easy scores on backdoor cuts. All three teams were able to get to the basket with ease and West Virginia’s interior defenders did not effectively provide help defense on the opposing player.
After the first game, the Mountaineers appeared to have improved at taking care of the ball and limiting turnovers (only 3 in the opener against South Dakota State), but had 21 turnovers against VCU and 15 against Western Kentucky. In the first three games, the Mountaineers have 37 total assists and 39 turnovers. That’s not just bad, it’s terrible.
Seniors Taz Sherman and Gabe Osabuohien have taken big steps forward individually, but overall, the team has shown very little improvement from last season through three games.
In order for the Mountaineers to truly improve and be one of the best teams in the nation, West Virginia will need to shoot more consistently, defend better (particularly on the interior) and learn to take care of the ball.