Preview and Predictions: WVU basketball

In a little over a week the Mountaineers will step on the floor to take on the Bulls of Buffalo. This year will look very different than what Mountaineer fans are used to. The 2013-2014 season feels like a distant memory. That’s the last time that Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles weren’t dawning the blue and gold.

That 13/14 team was a transition team. This team is in a similar boat as it needs to find its identity. The Mountaineers will still deploy Press Virginia but who will step up to create havoc up front?

The Guards

  • Beetle Bolden
  • Brandon Knapper
  • Chase Harler
  • Jordan McCabe
  • Taevon Horton
  • Trey Doomes
  • Jermaine Haley

The one thing this team will definitely have is depth. Reminds me a lot of the 2015 team that was a constant carousel to find the right group. Beetle has the most experience of the group but has shown at times to be more of a spark plug then a go to scorer. He averaged 8.7 ppg while shooting 41.1% from 3 where he’s most comfortable. It’ll be interesting to see how much he has been able to develop as a scorer off the dribble. He’ll be a starter while the other guard position is still up in the air. It will be more important to see who finishes the game. Jordan McCabe might be one of the players that will make a push for the starting job by the end of the season. For anyone that spends a lot of time on YouTube, you might have come across a highlight or two of the internet star.

Twelve years old! Making those types of moves. Some may say that Coach Huggins will try to knock the flashiness out of his game. But I believe we’ll see him get a lot more lead way due to his gym rat mentality. With all of the hard work he has put in since stepping on campus, we might get to see something special in the coming seasons.

Other players to look out for include Chase Harler, Brandon Knapper, and Jermaine Haley. Harler is the other known commodity in this group of guards. The Wheeling product has proven to be a player Huggins trusts, therefore, he will still get some run in this loaded backcourt. Brandon Knapper was close to coming back from an Acl tear towards the end of last season but ultimately decided to red shirt. After a problem with a blood clot in the summer, he was cleared to practice in August. The former three star recruit should fit right into the press which will definitely help him stay on the court. Jermaine Haley is my choice for a surprise pick. If this team is unable to guard in the half court, an option that’s always open for the Mountaineers is the 1-3-1. Haley could play a crucial role as a 6’7 guard. He allows the team to employ a lineup where all 5 players on the court would be 6’7 or taller.

The Forwards

  • Esa Ahmad
  • Wesley Harris
  • Lamont West
  • Emmitt Matthews jr
  • Sagaba Konate
  • Logan Routt
  • Derek Culver
  • Andrew Gordon

The theme of this team as stated earlier is depth. The forwards have the experience with Ahmad, Harris, West, and Konate. If Konate is able to extend the defense with his new 3-point shooting ability, a lot of things could open up in Huggins’ motion offense. Esa Ahmad has his last chance to prove that he is NBA material. Much of his time in Morgantown has been disappointing as there are glimpses of elite talent but not enough to hang your hat on it. After being suspended for the first 17 games of last season, he never seemed to find his rhythm. Ahmad has been putting in a lot of work this offseason so Mountaineer fans should see a difference player come Friday.

With the experience this group has, the newcomers in the front court will have to prove themselves to get substantial minutes as the season progresses. Derek Culver is the big recruit coming in. As an enforcer, he’ll see time spelling Konate but should develop into a solid player in the coming years.

Predictions

This team will have a few tests in out of conference play starting off against a buffalo team that beat a good Arizona team last year before losing to Kentucky in the round of 32. Other games of note include Florida (NYC), Pitt, and Rhode Island. Don’t be surprised if this team takes some lumps early. It’s going to be a long process to get the new guys to fit into the system or maybe make adjustments to the system that we’ve come to know over the last few years. They’ll figure it out. A coach with 845 wins always will.

I expect conference play to be much of the same. A clearly defined starting 5 will emerge come January and the team will be rolling on all cylinders. Kansas State is a trendy pick to be near the top of the conference at season’s end. I want to get out in front of this with my hot take. West Virginia will sweep the wildcats in the regular season. This will accompany a home win against Kansas to highlight the season.

With the way the Mountaineers play, they’re a team that no one wants to see pop up in their side of the bracket in March. Get your tickets ready. I believe this team will make the tournament as a 5 seed and once again make a run to a sweet 16.

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