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Morgantown, West Virginia – Since the West Virginia Mountaineers’ season ended with a disappointing loss to the Syracuse Orange, there has been a lot of player movement and uncertainty surrounding the team.

Juniors Jordan McCabe and Emmitt Matthews, Jr. have both entered the transfer portal, and sharpshooters Sean McNeil and Taz Sherman have entered their names into the 2021 NBA Draft with the possibility of returning to West Virginia University next season.

Big men Gabe Osabuohien and Derek Culver are still undecided about their returns and Bob Huggins will certainly have to be very engaged in bringing in transfer players from other schools over the next several weeks.

Starting Lineup

Point Guard: Miles McBride – Deuce was receiving some attention from NBA scouts and Bob Huggins admitted that professional executives ask him about McBride before any other player on his team, but a toe injury late in the season has really hurt him down the stretch.  If McBride were to leave WVU and enter the draft after this season, his chances of being drafted are slim.

He mentioned recently that he’s still undecided about what he’s going to do next season.  Even if he decides to put his name in the NBA Draft and be evaluated by professional scouts, he’ll almost certainly return for at least one more season.

Shooting Guard: Sean McNeil or Taz Sherman – Although both McNeil and Sherman could return, at least one will be back and in the starting lineup for the Mountaineers next season.

Both are clearly interested in playing professionally and will want to start, so perhaps the best thing for everyone involved is for only one of them to return.  Neither McNeil or Sherman will want to come off the bench.

Small Forward: Taj Thweatt – With Emmitt Matthews, Jr. gone, sophomore Taj Thweatt will have an opportunity to step in and get major playing time next season.  Supremely talented and athletic, Thweatt will be an upgrade from Matthews on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.

Forward: Jalen Bridges – Expect an expanded role for Bridges next season that utilizes his ability to get to the basket and score.  Bridges will make a big leap in his sophomore season.

Center: Isaiah Cottrell – While Derek Culver’s return is still very much up in the air (it’s currently 50/50), Isaiah Cottrell is ready to step in and get big minutes in his return from injury.  Cottrell has the size and skill to be effective as an inside/outside scorer, and is an upgrade as a defender over Culver.

Bench

Gabe Osabuohien – Osabuohien’s return to the Mountaineers is critical.  His defensive presence and rebounding will be the difference between West Virginia being a very good team and one of the best teams in the Big 12 Conference/college basketball.

Jarrod West (or another veteran guard from the transfer portal) – West, a transfer from Marshall, is currently in the portal and may or may not commit to play for the Mountaineers, but he is an absolutely perfect energy guy off the bench.  West will be a senior presence with incredible defensive abilities who will get major minutes for West Virginia if he decides to join the team.

Veteran forward from the Transfer Portal – Whether Culver stays or returns, the Mountaineers will desperately need to add a veteran forward who can compete with Cottrell for the starting position or relieve Cottrell off the bench.

Kedrian Johnson – Johnson showed moments of real potential last season, and he will be another energy guy off the bench that Huggins will rely on playing big minutes as a reserve.

Seny Ndiaye – Bright future as a shot-blocker and role player off the bench, Ndiaye will be counted on to be a rim-protector for the Mountaineers next season.  As his body matures, he will be a real force for the team.

Jay Moore – Moore could become frustrated with lack of playing time and decide to transfer.  It’s unlikely that he’ll receive any considerable minutes with the Mountaineers over the next couple of seasons.

Spencer Macke – Fan favorite who is completely comfortable with his role on the team, Macke will end his college career with the Mountaineers.

This group of players has the ability to not only win the Big 12 Conference championship but also compete for a national championship next season.  Huggins will need to address the team’s glaring weaknesses, such as interior defense, but this is a talented team that can compete with anyone in the country.

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