Big 12 Basketball

Five Thoughts on the 2022-23 West Virginia Men’s Basketball Season

Erik Stevenson and Bob Huggins.

The West Virginia Mountaineers finished the 2022-23 season 19-15 under head coach Bob Huggins.  Here are five thoughts about the Mountaineers at the end of the season. 

The Wrap

The Mountaineers entered the season with a lot of questions, mostly because the roster was either new or untested. WVU answered some of those questions in noon-conference, going 10-2 and grabbing wins over Pitt and Florida along the way. WVU also lost to Purdue at the Phil Knight Invitational.

 

Once conference started, the Mountaineers took a tumble, losing each of their first five games. WVU broke the streak at home on Jan. 18 with a win over ranked TCU, and from there the Mountaineers seemed to find a rhythm. After beating TCU, the Mountaineers won four of their next five, including a victory over then No. 15 Auburn. After a three-game losing streak, WVU won four out of five to end the regular season, beating Iowa State and Kansas State along the way.

To most bracketologists, that stretch was enough to put WVU solidly in the NCAA Tournament field, and not even a quarterfinal loss to Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament put that into question. WVU was a No. 9 seed and nearly beat Maryland before falling by two points.

The Leaders

Four players finished the season in double figures in scoring for the Mountaineers, led by transfer guard Erik Stevenson, who averaged 15.4 points. He wasn’t always in coach Bob Huggins’ good graces, but down the stretch he put up some great numbers to help solidify the Mountaineers as an NCAA Tournament team.

Forward Tre Mitchell (11.7), guard Kedrian Johnson (11.7) and forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. (10.2) were the other Mountaineers that averaged double figures for the season. Joe Toussaint (9.4), the Mountaineers’ first guard off the bench, came real close to joining the quartet in double figures.

Mitchell turned out to be the Mountaineers’ leading rebounder (5.5), but forward Jimmy Bell Jr. was right behind him (5.2). Johnson had 3.8 assists and 1.8 steals to leave WVU. The Mountaineers didn’t have a dominant shot blocker for the season. James Okonkwo was the closest, averaging 0.7 per game.

 

As a team, they shot 45.3 percent from the field, 74.1 percent from the free-throw line and 34.8 percent from the 3-point line.

Who’s Leaving?

This is still the era of the COVID waiver, so here’s a list of the seniors on the WVU roster — Bell, Kedrian Johnson, Matthews, Mitchell, Jose Perez, Stevenson and Toussaint.

Perez wasn’t an option this season because the NCAA didn’t approve his transfer waiver, so he’ll be with the Mountaineers next season. Johnson, Matthews and Stevenson are fifth-year seniors and are not expected back. Based on bios, Bell, Mitchell and Toussaint would all appear to have a year of eligibility remaining, should they exercise it. All transferred in before this season, so theoretically if they have their degrees they could transfer again.

Who’s Staying and Coming In?

The Mountaineers have a healthy start already. Let’s assume Bell, Mitchell and Toussaint all return. Perez is back, too. The Mountaineers landed a second Manhattan transfer, Omar Silverio, who committed earlier this month (he can’t sign until April). Silverio still needs a waiver from the NCAA.

 

The Mountaineers also have freshman guard Josiah Davis, freshman forward Josiah Harris, sophomore guard Kobe Johnson, sophomore forward Jamel King, sophomore forward James Okonkwo, sophomore forward Patrick Suemnick, sophomore forward Mohamed Wague and sophomore guard Seth Wilson.

That’s 13 players. And, as of now, the Mountaineers don’t have a recruit signed for the 2023 cycle.

What’s Next?

If the Mountaineers are able to hold this roster together, it’s all about development. Toussaint slides into the starting lineup with Mitchell and Bell. The Mountaineers need more offense out of Bell, in addition to keeping him out of foul trouble. With Okonkwo and Wague, the Mountaineers have solid depth in the pivot. Perez averaged 18.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists at Manhattan last season, so he slides into a combination of Stevenson’s and Johnson’s role next season. Silverio averaged nearly 11 points at Hofstra in 2021-22 before transferring to Manhattan, and then transferring again after a controversial preseason coaching change with the Jaspers. From there, it’s about developing Wilson and Kobe Johnson into viable bench options. There isn’t quite as much unknown as this time last year.  

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard

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