Morgantown, West Virginia – The West Virginia Mountaineers are really deep, really talented and one of the most feared teams in college basketball this season. However, West Virginia’s current starting lineup needs some obvious modifications.
To begin, Emmitt Matthews, Jr. and Sean McNeil have not earned a place in the starting lineup through the first four games of the season. Matthews offers a lot of length and versatility, but he often disappears offensively for long stretches of games and makes a lot of silly mistakes (ie the terrible alley oop attempt late in the Gonzaga game). McNeil has shot 28.6% from the field and 27.6% from three point range, which is simply not good enough to beat the nation’s best teams.
With Matthews and McNeil out of the starting lineup, that frees up the shooting guard and small forward positions.
The obvious choice at the shooting guard position right now is Taz Sherman, who has averaged 11.8 points per game while shooting 48.5% from the field and a spectacular 57.1% from three point range off the bench for the Mountaineers this season. Not only has Sherman been efficient and productive on the offensive end, he provides an upgrade over McNeil at the shooting guard position defensively as well.
Replacing Matthews’ length and size at the small forward position can be done by adding ultra-talented but shaky freshman Isaiah Cottrell. Cottrell, who is 6’10 and is built very well already, has all of the skills to be effective right now.
Bob Huggins recently said the following of Cottrell: “We need to spend more time with Isaiah because he’s absolutely our most skilled big guy right now.”
With added confidence, Cottrell could be a truly transformative player in the West Virginia offense. He can shoot, he can pass, he can rebound and he can defend. Placing him in the starting lineup and giving him the assurance that he’s the man at the small forward position for this year would give him the boost of confidence that he needs.
Miles McBride, Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe should obviously remain in the starting lineup with Sherman and Cottrell. Although Miles McBride isn’t a “true point guard”, he does handle the ball well and only has four turnovers through four games this season. Sherman is also an outstanding ball-handler and can share duties at the point guard position at times as well, with Deuce playing off the ball.
A starting lineup of Miles McBride, Taz Sherman, Isaiah Cottrell, Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver would be the most imposing, dominant not only in the Big 12 but also likely in the country. Sean McNeil, Emmitt Matthews, Jr., Jalen Bridges, Gabe Osabuohien and Jordan McCabe would still provide outstanding depth for a starting lineup that would be pretty unstoppable.
PG Miles McBride
SG Taz Sherman
SF Isaiah Cottrell
PF Oscar Tshiebwe
C Derek Culver
Emmitt Matthews, Jr.