The West Virginia Mountaineers barely survived an upset bid by Northern Iowa and Bob Huggins has struggled to find a lineup capable of consistent scoring in the team’s first five games.
The starting lineup used in most of the games this season, featuring Jordan McCabe, Jermaine Haley, Emmitt Matthews, Jr., Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe, has looked disjointed and has been largely ineffective.
As the season rolls on and different lineups are used, it’s becoming more and more clear who should start and get the bulk of the minutes for the Mountaineers.
Point Guard: Jordan McCabe, when giving the freedom to be Jordan McCabe, is an absolute genius, a creative, flashy basketball savant very capable of being the floor general for this team. When reigned in by Bob Huggins and removed of his ability to be imaginative on the floor, he becomes a scared, shaky shell of himself and his weaknesses and deficiencies – defense, quickness, athleticism – become highlighted. It appears that we’re going to see the latter version of Jordan McCabe, at least for now, and Miles McBride is simply sensational. McBride is confident, an outstanding on the ball defender who runs Bob Huggins’ offense the way Bob Huggins wants it to be done. McBride
Shooting Guard: Senior Jermaine Haley is outstanding and this is no reflection on what he has or has not done this season, but West Virginia needs someone capable of hitting threes to open up the rest of the floor. Sean McNeil is the team’s best shooter by a mile and needs to be on the floor more. His defense is a work in progress, but he has shown that he is a crafty defender and pokes away a lot of balls for turnovers. McNeil
Small Forward: Emmitt Matthews, Jr. has gotten the start at the 3 every game to start the season, but Jermaine Haley is more of a small forward Haley has the size and skillset to be an outstanding 3 and this should be his new position. At the 3, he will still have plenty of opportunity to handle the ball and penetrate to the basket, which is what he does best. Haley
Power Forward: Although a bit thin for this position, Matthews, Jr. has bulked up quite a bit and grown since last season. Matthews has the potential to step out to shoot threes, but he’s at his best under the basket, getting to the rim and finishing. Matthews, Jr.
Center: West Virginia has two of the best rebounders in the Big 12 Conference – Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver – and it’s clear through 5 games that they shouldn’t be on the court at the same time. We knew that Tshiebwe is an amazing rebounder, but his post moves and inside scoring has been a pleasant surprise. Derek Culver, shooting 28.9% from the field on the season, while averaging 9.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, would be far more productive coming off the bench and relieving Tshiebwe. Tshiebwe
A lineup of McBride, McNeil, Haley, Matthews, Jr. and Tshiebwe gives Huggins a dynamic offense and a defensive group with the size, skill and flexibility to guard any offense they face. In addition, Jordan McCabe and Derek Culver would provide a spark of the bench and perhaps create the same last-season heroics that we got from them last season.