The 11-1 Mountaineers open conference play today against Oklahoma State. Let’s take a quick pulse check..
The Press already looks in midseason form. West Virginia is stealing the ball on 18.9% of opponent possessions, and is forcing opponent turnovers on an insane 34.0% of their possessions. That’s almost two in five, and is a full 4.9% better than Fordham in 2nd place. We’re also leading the country in opponent assist to turnover ratio, and the 20.8 extra scoring chances we’re averaging per game are more than double UL Lafeyette’s 9.4 in 2nd. All of this has contributed to a nation-leading 33.1 point scoring margin. You could argue that we haven’t really played anyone yet, but that’s been the case in previous years, as well. The difference is that where previous editions would win by 20-30, this year’s team is routinely burying those crappy teams by 40+. OOC may not be doing much to help prepare us for Big 12 play, but at least we’re learning how to finish teams off.
The depth. We currently have 9 guys averaging more than 10 minutes per game and 2 more who are averaging over 9. No official stats on where that ranks nationally but I can’t imagine there are more than a handful of squads who could boast something similar. The scoring is nicely distributed right down the depth chart, as well. Some of this is again down to who we’ve played, but it’s not hard to imagine that experience coming in handy at some point during the season.
3 point shooting. We’re currently at 36.9% for the year, which obviously isn’t lights out by any means, but it’s definitely a marked improvement over the 32.5% we shot from distance a year ago. We’re also attempting a few more per game as a team this year (21.2 vs 18.4), and difference has created a welcome influx of a few extra points per game. Dax, Teyvon, and Tarik in particular have been straight up sniping, combining to go 35/73 (48%) through the first 12 games.
Nate Adrian. What a revelation. It’s not clear whether Nate’s play has been the result of those beautiful new locks or the 4 years of hard work he’s spent developing himself (I’m personally leaning hair), but he’s been arguably our most important player this year. He’s leading the team in rebounding (6.3 per game), is 2nd in minutes (25.9), scoring (10.5), and assists (3.6), and most impressively, he’s tied for 3rd in steals (1.3). He’s been fantastic hassling inbounders at the head of our defense, but the part of his game I’ve been most impressed with is his work as a playmaker out of the high post. I’ll always love Dev, but it’s amazing what a difference it makes having someone who can actually pass and dribble in that spot.
No plan B if the press isn’t working. We haven’t seen it often, but there have a been a couple times so far this year (first half against Temple, first half against Northern Kentucky) when the press hasn’t immediately created easy transition buckets, and on those occasions we’ve looked lost offensively. Now I get that nobody’s ever accused Huggs’ teams of looking like the 7-seconds-or-less Suns or the Golden State Warriors (desperation end-of-the-shot clock 3’s have become so prevalent that they’re now part of the WVU basketball drinking game), but the inability of our half-court sets to generate a reasonable look over the course of 30 seconds is concerning, especially considering the general level of competition. The Big 12 looks strong this year, so if we’re going to be in that upper tier of the conference then we need to find other ways to get easy buckets besides counting on the other team to crumble against the press.
No established crunch-time scorer. This is another recurring problem, but I still don’t see anybody out there who’s established themselves as someone we can completely trust to get buckets with the game on the line. We have a couple of guys who think they’re that guy, which is probably a problem in and of itself, but we don’t have anybody like a Desean or a Gansey who can take a game over. It hasn’t been a huge deal yet, but it could turn into one as we get into the meat of the schedule over the next few months.
Free throw shooting. We’re shooting 64.4% on the year. That’s 296th out of 341 nationally. I know this is a recurring theme for our squads under Huggs, but my God are we atrocious. And as evidence of the difference it makes, let’s compare our best win with the Temple loss:
Virginia: 16/19, 84%, won by 9
Temple: 11/18, 61%, lost by 4
Idk if you lock the guys in the gym for a few days without food or what, but we have to get that fixed.