West Virginia Needs Jordan McCabe to be JORDAN MCCABE

Jordan McCabe, the 6’0 boy wonder  who turned into a full grown man during his Freshman season in the Big 12, went through the usual first-year struggles in college.  The game seemed to be too fast, too big, too athletic, too everything for him at the beginning of last season.  He was a fish out of water.  A game that came so easy to him his entire life was suddenly challenging and frustrating.  He made boneheaded mistakes and forced difficult passes and spent most minutes of most games sitting on the bench.  He was bad and the team was even worse.

And then…

February 26, 2019.  A tough TCU came to the Coliseum and McCabe seemingly just had enough losing. He put up 25 points, had 11 assists, 6 steals in a triple overtime 104-96 upset win over the Horned Frogs.  This is the night that Jordan McCabe showed who he could really be, who we all knew that he would one day become, the leader of the West Virginia Mountaineers basketball team.  The stats were great, but it was the leadership and confidence he showed on the court and in the huddle that really mattered.  Bob Huggins finally had his leader, his coach on the court.

A severely-depleted WVU team went 2-2 to close out the season and 2-1 in the Big 12 Tournament, beating Iowa State, Oklahoma and eventual National Championship-bound Texas Tech along the way.  McCabe averaged 13.5 points, 5 assists and 1.8 steals per game while shooting 35% from three point range during the last 10 games of his Freshman season.

There were big expectations for Jordan McCabe entering his Sophomore season and through the first twelve games of the season, it has been an absolute disaster for him.  In what was supposed to be a breakout season for McCabe, he is currently averaging 3.0 points, 2.2 assists, 0.8 rebounds, 1.1 turnovers while shooting 22.2% from the field and 12.0% from three point range.

While still a starter technically, McCabe is only playing 13 minutes a game and is most often on the bench during critical times.  On the other hand, his “backups”, sensational Freshman Miles McBride and Sophomore Brandon Knapper, have greatly exceeded expectations.

McBride has been the most pleasant surprise for Bob Huggins to start the season, averaging 8.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.7 rebounds while playing nearly 22 minutes per game.  Like all Freshmen, he has struggled with consistency a bit, but there is no one more reliable on the Mountaineers than McBride in clutch, crucial situations.  Knapper hasn’t been much better than McCabe statistically (3.3 points, 0.5 rebounds, 0.7 assists while shooting 33.3% from the field in about 8 minutes per game), but he does appear to be a steady hand at point guard for the Mountaineers.

When Jordan McCabe has the freedom to be the basketball virtuoso that we know he can be, he’s an outstanding floor leader capable of leading West Virginia to great heights.  However, it appears that his freedom is limited by Bob Huggins, who values steadiness over flashiness from his point guard.  McCabe is very aware that if he makes a mistake, that Huggins will immediately bring in McBride or Knapper to replace him.  This stunts McCabe’s ability to just be himself on the court.

At the end of last season, McCabe was left in games because Huggins didn’t have another player to turn to and McCabe was truly fantastic.  Although McBride has been fantastic and Knapper has been reliable enough, McCabe has to be given some leeway to make mistakes without constantly looking over his shoulder.   McBride and Knapper can both play off the ball and can get minutes without replacing McCabe.

While Bob Huggins is one of the best coaches in college basketball history and knows what he’s doing, McCabe has clearly regressed as a player and needs to be given the support from his coach to regain his confidence.  Huggins needs Jordan McCabe to be Jordan McCabe and not the shell of himself that we’ve seen through the first twelve games of the season to be successful.