Big East (24-10, 11-7)
Big Wins: 1/6 Marquette (79-64), 1/13 Syracuse (81-61), 3/3 Pittsburgh (76-62)
Bad Losses: 12/29 Oklahoma (82-88), 1/30 Cincinnati (39-62), 2/20 at Villanova (56-78)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2006, Elite Eight loss to Texas
Coach: Bob Huggins (20-15 in 15 NCAA appearances)
Darris Nichols, Senior, Guard, 10.7 ppg, 3.2 apg, 3.4 rpg
Alex Ruoff, Junior, Forward, 13.5 ppg, 3.0 apg, 3.3 rpg
Joe Alexander, Junior, Forward, 16.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.5 bpg
De’Sean Butler, Sophomore, Forward, 12.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg
Jamie Smalligan, Senior, Center, 2.3 ppg, 1.9 rpg
Joe Mazzulla, Sophomore, Guard, 5.6 ppg, 2.1 apg
John Flowers, Freshman, Forward, 4.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg
Wellington Smith, Sophomore, Forward, 5.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg
Why They Can Surprise:
West Virginia has Coach John Beilein’s players, but the style of play of Coach Bob Huggins. Most thought that the odd combination would lead to a poor season for the Mountaineers, but instead WVU has managed to find the best of both worlds. The team can still knock down three-pointers and keep the turnovers down just like their old coach preferred, but they can also attack the glass and be physical in the paint.
Point guard Darris Nichols dishes out 3.2 assists per game and only gives up 1.2 turnovers. The senior’s leadership has helped with the transition and his versatility is a very important part of this team. West Virginia will not take as many three’s as they did last year, but when you have Alex Ruoff on the team, you have to take some. Ruoff shoots over 40 percent from long range and Nichols and Da’Sean Butler will knock down a couple per game.
Why They Can Disappoint:
The rebounding might be much improved compared to last year, but it is still pretty average. The team simply does not have the players to clean up the glass effectively. Butler, Joe Alexander and Wellington Smith are all decent rebounders, but players like perimeter orientated 7-footer Jamie Smalligan do not grab as many boards as Coach Huggins would like. The lack of true post players also results in a one-dimensional offense. While the three-point shooting is not as widespread as it was before, the offense will still drive and dish…just now they will dish less and get to the basket more. The Mountaineers need to get some touches inside to at least make the opposing defense work a little bit.
Who To Watch:
Alexander is the team’s leading scorer and the most dynamic offensive player in Morgantown…not counting the football team’s backfield. He does a little bit of everything and averages 16.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 blocks per contest. He is a solid free-throw shooter and, unlike the rest of the team, gets to the charity stripe more than four times a game. The 6-8 junior has scored in single digits eight games during the regular season and West Virginia lost five of those contests. When Alexander is not scoring, it puts a lot of pressure on Ruoff, Butler and Nichols to pick up the slack.
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 75.5 (61st in nation, 6th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 62.7 (48, 3)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.5 (100, 6)
Field-Goal Defense: 41.5 (67, 6)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.3 (106, 6)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.2 (165, 7)
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.2 (188, 6)
Rebound Margin: 2.5 (93, 9)
Assists Per Game: 15.7 (38, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.1 (8, 1)
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