The West Virginia Mountaineers men’s basketball season is done. Here are five thoughts about the 2021-22 season and what’s ahead for the basketball program.
In non-conference, coach Bob Huggins looked like he had a team that could tangle with anyone in the Big 12. Their one loss was to Marquette, which reached the NCAA Tournament. West Virginia beat UConn, which also made the NCAA Tournament. But, once Big 12 play hit, the downturn began. It started with Taz Sherman getting COVID-19 and missing the Big 12 opener against Texas (he had also been slowed by an injury). While the Mountaineers had good outside scoring in Sherman, Sean McNeil and Malik Curry, they had little scoring inside. And their inability to produce offensive inside wore on the Mountaineers. The closest thing WVU had to a good win in Big 12 play was beating Iowa State, a win that snapped a seven-game losing streak. But that only led to another seven-game losing streak. The Mountaineers did manage to win their Big 12 Tournament first-round game over Kansas State, but after their loss to Kansas in the quarterfinals they were under-.500. WVU was hoping for any sort of postseason invite, but both the NIT and CBI passed it over. The good news is that Huggins is a finalist for the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame and should know his fate in a few weeks.
The Mountaineers had seven players walk on Senior Day — Taz Sherman, Dimon Carrigan, Malik Curry, Kedrian Johnson, Sean McNeil, Gabe Osabuohien, and Pauly Paulicap. Sherman was All-Big 12 Second Team and Osabuohein was one of three players to win the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award. Sherman and McNeil both declared for the NBA Draft after last season before returning and will likely take a shot at the league this summer. Most of these players were playing on their COVID-19 season, so their eligibility is complete. Johnson is a player that could return on a COVID waiver. In addition to the senior class, the Mountaineers saw four players submit their names for the transfer portal. Seny Ndiaye and Taj Thweatt both did so during the season. Isaiah Cottrell and Jalen Bridges both submitted their names on March 16.
Who’s Coming Back?
While putting their names in the transfer portal doesn’t rule out Jalen Bridges (8.4 points, 4.8 rebounds last season) and Isaiah Cottrell (4.2 points, 2.8 rebounds) returning, Huggins can’t count on them to be back in Morgantown next fall. That means the roster is deeply inexperienced, as Bridges and Cottrell were two of the remaining few players with at least two years in college. Seth Wilson, Kobe Johnson, James Okonkwo, and Jamel King were all freshmen and didn’t play much. All will have the opportunity to compete for bigger roles in 2022-23.
Who’s Coming In?
The Mountaineers signed three players during the early signing period in November — Patrick Suemnick, a 6-foot-8 forward who is a transfer from Robert Morris (PA); Josiah Davis, a 6-foot-3 guard from Kitchener, Ontario, Canada (Teays Valley Christian School, W.Va.); and Josiah Harris, a 6-foot-7 forward from Canton, Ohio (Richmond Heights HS). The Mountaineers also have a commitment from a 6-foot-10 forward, Fede Federiko, who played at Northern Oklahoma (Tonkawa, Oklahoma).
What to Watch For
The Mountaineers will likely be involved in the transfer market. With just five holdover players and four recruits coming in, it looks like Huggins will have anywhere from three to four scholarships to work with, which would allow them to be significantly involved in finding some experience to anchor their young roster. The Mountaineers shouldn’t be picky about position, either. They don’t have a single returning double-digit scorer, so finding at least one player that can score inside and one that can score outside is critical. Bridges and Cottrell will be the only third-year players on the roster. The Mountaineers need experience for the now as Huggins and his staff develops their 2021 and 2022 classes.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
Note: This story was updated to note the transfer portal declarations of Bridges and Cottrell.