HCS Op-Ed: Despite Kentucky Loss, the West Virginia Mountaineers’ Future is Bright

After ending the 2013-14 season with a 17-15 record and missing the NCAA tournament, there was plenty for the Mountaineers to improve on.

Starting off the 2014-15 season with an 8 game winning streak, a one point loss to LSU, and another 7 game winning streak, the Mountaineers proved they made the necessary adjustments to have success this season. Predicted to finish 7th overall in the Big 12, the Mountaineers battled their way through to end up in fourth place in the conference. This young team grew immensely from game to game, pushed through tough losses and extended injuries to Gary Browne and Juwan Staten, and found their way into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

The Mountaineers made their way through a tough Buffalo team and wore down a Maryland squad to end up with the now 38-0 Kentucky Wildcats. After playing closely with Buffalo and Maryland, WVU suffered a brutal 78-39 loss to Kentucky, allowing UK to later advance to the Final Four after a two point game with Notre Dame.

In a season where many things improved, shooting the ball was not one of them.  The Mountaineers shot a dismal 40.8 percent from the floor and a mediocre 31.6 percent from the 3-point line.  These are numbers WVU will have to improve on to make next season one to count on.

That being said, this season wasn’t anything the Mountaineers or their fans should hang their collective heads over. Concluding the 2014-2015 season, they were still ranked number one in steals per game – something they consistently held all season. WVU totaled 678 forced turnovers this season, breaking the previous record of 647 by the 1997-98 WVU team.  Jevon Carter had a total of 67 steals this season, setting a new freshman record previously set in 1991.

Also, we have to look at the success of these young players, and the bright future they hold for WVU’s program. Of the ten players whose average playtime was at least ten minutes per game, eight of them will be returning: Devin Williams, Jonathon Holton, Daxter Miles Jr., Jevon Carter, Jaysean Paige, Elijah Macon, Nathan Adrian, and Tarik Phillip. Those eight players don’t include Billydee Williams and Brandon Watkins, who battled injuries, but still played some critical minutes this season.

Coach Bob Huggins, his staff and team are looking forward to next season, and so should the entire Mountaineer Nation.  Huggins says that WVU is back to being where he’s used to being.  The Mountaineers are also adding some outstanding depth to the 2015-16 roster: James Bolden, Esa Ahmad, and Teyvon Myers. Bolden is a 4-star, all-conference caliber point guard who averaged roughly 20 points per game his senior season. While forward Esa Ahmad turned down offers from powerhouse schools Ohio State and UCLA.  Lastly, Myers led the nation’s JUCO rankings in scoring an average of 25 points per game.

Huggins believes he finally has his “type” of players.  Blue-collar, hardworking young men who will make the most of their abilities, similar to the people of West Virginia that they represent.  If Huggs is right, this team’s future is looking bright.

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