West Virginia Mountaineers
Last NCAA Appearance: 2008, Sweet Sixteen loss to Xavier
Coach: Bob Huggins (22-16 in 16 NCAA appearances)
Why They Can Surprise:
West Virginia is still transitioning from the John Beilein regime to the Bob Huggins era. And, just like last season, the mix of players seems to be working. Coach Huggins wants some bigger, tougher players who can hit the glass and he is moving in that direction with the addition of Devin Ebanks. The 6-9 freshman lacks the strength to battle with some of the bigger centers in the Big East, but he is a better option than anything the Mountaineers had a year ago. And that did not stop them from reaching the Sweet Sixteen.
The defense will do a little bit of everything, and usually quite successfully. Wellington Smith and John Flowers are both decent shot blockers who will at least make the opposition think twice before going to the basket. Da’Sean Butler and Alex Ruoff are good for a few steals every game, but the most impressive number comes from the opponent’s three-point field-goal percentage. West Virginia only allows teams to shoot 27.0 percent from beyond the arc.
Why They Can Disappoint:
Where are the point guards? Freshman Darryl Bryant has done an admirable job running the show, but he is more of a wing. In fact, most of the team is a bunch of wings attacking the basket without a point guard to get them the ball. But those wings are definitely productive. Bryant, who is nicknamed ‘Truck’ because he likes to lower his head and drive to the basket, averaged 10.1 points per game on the year. Ruoff and Butler are the superstars and they both can hit the outside shot or do damage around the rim. Three quality wings are a nice thing to have, but the lack of a true point guard always becomes more noticeable in March.
Who To Watch:
Ruoff is the only senior that sees significant playing time, so it is up to him to keep things under control in the backcourt, even if the ball is not in his hands. Ruoff’s versatility has been an asset to the team over the last couple of years and it will have to be again during the tournament. Even if Ruoff spends more time with the ball in his hands during the high pressure situations in March, West Virginia will still have Butler and Bryant to concentrate on scoring. Butler, who averaged 17.8 points per game during the season, is a consistent outside shooter and will do a great job getting to the basket. If the opposition can shut down Butler and Ruoff has to worry about bringing the ball up the floor, the West Virginia offense will struggle.
Darryl Bryant, Freshman, Guard
Alex Ruoff, Senior, Guard
Da’Sean Butler, Junior, Forward
Wellington Smith, Junior, Forward
Devin Ebanks, Freshman, Forward
John Flowers, Sophomore, Forward
Kevin Jones, Freshman, Forward
Cam Thoroughman, Sophomore, Forward
+ Following final Bracket announcement, more team info will be added, including final RPI, final team statistical rankings, Joel's prediction, and more!