Basketball

HCS Op-Ed: Mountaineers Have Reached their Peak

The WVU Men’s basketball team has gotten off to a hot 11-1 start to the season. Reaching number 18 in the AP Poll has certainly been a pleasant surprise to start to the season. Juwan Staten is leading the way for the Mountaineers in both points, with 15.8 per game, and assists, 4.3 a contest. Senior Forward Jonathan Holton has been huge for West Virginia leading the team in rebounds, 7.5 rpg, and is second on the team in points, 11.5 ppg.

Despite all the positives that have gone their way this season, the Mountaineers aren’t ready for the grind of Big 12 Basketball. The Big 12 has seven ranked teams in the conference so far, and one more, Oklahoma State that is right outside of the rankings. Just like it was with football, the Big 12 is loaded from top to bottom.

To be fair, West Virginia has been the beneficiary of a really soft schedule. The Mountaineers have played six opponents below the RPI 150, and have only played one opponent in the RPI Top 25. The one opponent they played in the RPI Top 25 was against LSU in a game they lost at home.

The team lacks legitimate size, and that will come back to haunt them down the road. The only player on the team that is over 6-foot-9 is Kevin Noreen, and he has had plenty of foul trouble. The team’s leading rebounder, Jonathan Holton, is only 6-foot-7. Against lesser competition, they have been able to mask their lack of height with athleticism. But, when it comes to playing teams like Kansas, and Texas, who both have NBA type length, as well as NBA type athletes, the Mountaineers won’t be able to get by on simply their athleticism.

The Mountaineers have been able to score over 78 ppg, which is good for 23rd in the country. But, to be kind, the efficiency in which they are scoring has been subpar. If the Mountaineers are struggling to be efficient now, how will this translate against top Big 12 competition? The answer is it won’t.

The Mountaineers are shooting 41.8% as a team on the season. That is good for dead last in the Big 12 this season. Now, West Virginia is getting to the charity stripe, they’ve attempted the fourth most free throws in the Big 12. But, they aren’t converting when they get to the line. They are shooting 65.4% from the free throw line, that’s third worst in the league. The inefficiency of the Mountaineer offense will ultimately be their downfall once league play starts in the Big 12.

Athletically, this team looks just like one would expect a Bob Huggins coached team to look. They have the athletes to beat on the lesser talented teams, and cover up their flaws. But, the problem in the Big 12: there aren’t many lower end teams.

The Mountaineers will finish around the same place they did last season, 7th in the Conference. They will be hindered deeply by the lack of size, and inefficient offense. Unfortunately, any hope of competing for the top of the league is wishful thinking. Enjoy seeing the number next to the University name while you can … because it won’t last much longer.

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