Leading up to the opening of the 2021-22 Big 12 Men’s basketball season Heartland College Sports will analyze each of the Big 12 men’s basketball rosters. Today it’s the West Virginia Mountaineers.
2020-21 Season-Ending Roster (bold denotes returning for 2021-22): F Jalen Bridges (6-foot-7), F Isaiah Cottrell (6-10), F Derek Culver (6-10), G Kedrian Johnson (6-3), G Spencer Macke (5-11), F Emmitt Matthews Jr. (6-7), G Miles McBride (6-2), G Jordan McCabe (6-0), G Sean McNeil (6-3), G Jay Moore (6-3), F Seny N’Diaye (6-10), F Gabe Osabuohein (6-7), G Taz Sherman (6-4), F Taj Thweatt (6-7).
Left for pro basketball: McBride (drafted by the New York Knicks), Culver.
Left due to eligibility: None.
Left program to transfer: Macke (TBA), Matthews (Washington), McCabe (UNLV), Moore (TBA).
Joined program via transfer: F Dimon Carrigan (Florida International), G Malik Curry (Old Dominion), F Pauly Paulicap (DePaul).
Class of 2021 Recruits: G Kobe Johnson, McKinley HS, Canton, Ohio; F Jamel King, Bella Vista Prep (Arizona), Uniontown, Alabama; F James Okonkwo, Beckley Prep (West Virginia), Maidenhead, England; G Seth Wilson, Lorain, Ohio.
Potential starting lineup: McNeil, Sherman, Bridges, Paulicap, Osabuohein.
Why?: McNeil and Sherman are the holdover guards from last season, with Sherman averaging 13.4 points and McNeil averaging 12.2. Both could see a bump with McBride now in the NBA. But the bigger beneficiary could be Bridges, who entered the starting lineup after Oscar Tshiebwe left the program and transferred to Kentucky in January. Bridges ended up averaging 5.9 points per game, but he could double that right out of the gate. Osabuohein was not an offensive threat last season, but his defense and rebounding were key to helping the Mountaineers last season. If his offense improves this season, he and Pauicap should make a nice pairing inside. Paulicap averaged only 7.2 points last season, but he averaged 10.4 ppg the season before. He’s averaged at least six rebounds in three of his four collegiate seasons.
The bench: Cottrell, Johnson, Carrigan, Curry, Thweatt.
Why? Don’t rule out Carrigan competing hard with Paulicap for what I consider to be the last starting spot entering the regular season. Cottrell should push for playing time, but the Mountaineers may want to bring him along slowly after his Achilles injury. Curry comes to WVU after averaging 15.7 points per game last year, but he’ll probably start the season behind Sherman and McNeil (or use him in four-guard alignments) because it’s hard to find that kind of scoring off the bench. If Johnson has the sort of upward track that Sherman (also a junior college transfer) had last year, he should easily clock 12-15 minutes behind the starters. As for Thweatt, he seems the most likely player to be Bridges’ immediate backup.
The wild card: N’Diaye.He played 14 games last year and managed about a minute an appearance. Has he developed enough to push the 6-foot-10 forwards ahead of him on the roster?
By Big 12 Play?: Huggins could choose to go smaller by inserting Curry in the starting lineup for one of the forwards (Paulicap or Osabuohein). If Curry is a plus defender, watch for that tweak. Cottrell could develop into a player that could push for starting time, too. Throw in Carrigan and the Mountaineers have at least eight players they can mix-and-match into the starting lineup. Huggins accomplished what he had hoped to accomplish in the offseason — bolster the frontcourt with defense and rebounding and build depth in the backcourt through recruiting. Now, he and his staff have plenty of options — and most of those freshmen could redshirt.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
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