WVU Hoops Schedule Analysis: Several Challenges in Non-Conference
By Kevin Kinder
West Virginia’s 2017-18 men’s basketball schedule is a challenging one. It’s made even moreso by the unconventional opener half a world away in Germany.
It’s enough that the Mountaineers will be facing Kentucky, Virginia, Pitt and Texas A&M in its non-conference slate. There are also potential games against Missouri, Oregon State and Nebraska in the AdvoCare Invitational. But now add in the fact that the opener, against the Aggies, will be the very first one on this year’s college hoops schedule, and will take place on Nov. 10 in Ramstein-Miesenbach, in the Armed Forces Classic, and you have a number of different items to think about.
First, there’s the natural distraction of making a big trip to play the opener. Most coaches would likely prefer to get in a couple of games at home first, including an exhibition contest, but WVU won’t get that cushion. It will have to be ready to play early (only once in history have the Mountaineers opened the season on an earlier date) and they won’t be playing Mount St. Mary’s either.
Assistant coach Ron Everhart, though, doesn’t see this as a negative (other than the lengthy plane ride and the toll it could have on his surgically repaired back). He notes the natural excitement for an opener in any sport, and those emotions will only be amplified with the special nature of this contest.
That’s just the start of things, though. There’s the task of flying back to the States and getting ready for a trio of games that the Mountaineers should win. Of course, that’s also code for “trap game”, and WVU will have American, Morgan State and Long Beach (the latter of which has suffered three transfer losses since the end of last year) over the next week. Still, this is a nice stretch where the Mountaineers should be able to settle into the groove of their early schedule.
Just after that, thought, comes the trip to Florida for three games in four days in the AdvoCare event, which will test the Mountaineers’ depth and resilience. It’s over this portion of the schedule where the coaching staff could really get insight into which players are ready to contribute and which ones might be destined for lesser roles. The quick turnarounds and solid competition should provide at least a taste of what is to come in toughest back-to-back games of the non-conference schedule.
WVU does get a home breather against NJIT before facing off in a Tuesday-Saturday set against Virginia and Pitt, which could be a make-or-break double dip. The Cavaliers will be looking to overcome their scoring woes of a season ago, but still figure to be tough defensively and give trouble with their pace, while Pitt, no matter how down in terms of personnel, will likely have the homestanding Panther fans in full-throated frenzy against WVU. That’s a treacherous stretch.
The Mountaineers then have 11 days off, and will play their exhibition game during that time, before another pair of winnable games against Coppin State and Fordham. That will complete the 2017 portion of the non-conference schedule, but it still leaves the big dog, Kentucky, to play at the end of January in the midst of the Big 12 season.
Out of these 13 games, what would be a good record? Eleven and two would be good, 12-1 excellent. Of course, head coach Bob Huggins and company will be shooting for the perfect 13-0, but just getting into double figure wins will be a solid achievement. Getting off on the right foot will be very important, which leads us back to the opener in Germany. Win that one, and the tone could be set for a successful front end of the schedule.