Dearth Of Scoring A Theme On WVU Landscape This Season
Here at the confluence of WVU’s basketball, baseball and spring football seasons, one theme has run through all of them – a lack of offense.
It started off in the past fall’s football campaign, when the Mountaineers scored just 247 points, an average of 20.6 per game, in a 5-7 season. An unsettled quarterback position and a musical chairs offensive line were the main culprits, leaving the Mountaineers 116th out of 130 Division I teams in scoring average.
On the bright side, WVU managed to squeeze five wins out of that production, which was fifth-worst among Power 5 schools. Only Georgia Tech (16.7), Vanderbilt (16.5), Northwestern (16.3) and Rutgers (13.3) were worse.
Still, that wasn’t a huge surprise or disappointment, considering that it was the first year under a new coaching staff and that a ton of offensive talent had to be replaced. Without question, though, one of the big points of emphasis for development this spring at the football complex will be improving play on that side of the ball.
Across the Evansdale Campus, the theme has continued at the Coliseum, where the Mountaineer men’s well-documented shooting woes have left it 204th nationally in scoring at 70.1 points per game. That’s not quite as far down the list as football, as WVU has 146 teams behind it in the national rankings (which include 350 teams), but the Mountaineers shooting percentage from the field (42.4% – 251st) and the free throw line (63.7% – 333rd) are painful reminders of the many available points that never make it to the scoreboard.
The same story is played out when the women’s team takes the court. Oddly enough, Mike Carey’s team is also 204th nationally in scoring, averaging 64 points per contest. The ladies are slightly better from the field (38.5% – 239th) and marginally better from the line (67.3% – 221st), but the same things which plague them have also beset Bob Huggins’ team for much of the season – they just can’t get the ball to go in the hoop consistently.
Although it’s early in the season, the Mountaineer baseball team has also been hurt by a lack of scoring production. While WVU has averaged 4.75 runs per game in eight starts, 15 of those came in a rout of Canisius. Put that one aside, and West Virginia is averaging less than 3.3 runs per game. WVU has scored three or fewer runs in five of its eight contests, and two of those were one-run losses. With just one more key hit in those two match-ups, the Mountaineers could be standing at 7-1 on the season instead of its current 5-3.
Head coach Randy Mazey notes that hitting and run production tends to increase as the weather gets better, and that’s true. That benefit should accrue to all teams (albeit more strongly to those that have had to prepare indoors and in cold weather like the Mountaineers), so whether or not that bump helps WVU significantly or not in the overall remains to be seen, but the hope is that West Virginia will send more runners across the plate as spring arrives.
Currently, the Mountaineers are tied for 135th nationally in runs scored out of 294 squads.
Then there’s rifle, which is a different story, but one where the end tale is trending in the same direction – more scoring is needed. This year’s Mountaineer squad is actully scoring a bit higher than last year’s national runners-up, as through 11 matches, WVU is averaging 2335.5 in smallbore and 2373.5 in air rifle for a total of 4709, as opposed to last year’s totals of 2332-2370-4702. Those excellent numbers, though, have the Mountaineers seeded third in the upcoming NCAA Championships, behind Kentucky and TCU, which won the national title in 2018 and 2019, respectively. That seeding uses the top three scores at three different venues plus each team’s NCAA qualifying score, and the Mountaineers, while consistent all year, have a top score of 4719 that trails all four of Kentucky’s best marks this year.
The other commonality? All of the programs that have been offensively challenged have also been reasonably successful. Granted, the football team came up a game short of bowl eligibility, but there is hope for brighter days ahead. The men’s basketball team will be in the NCAA Tournament, and the women are squarely on the bubble. The baseball team, despite a massive rebuild of its pitching staff, should contend for another postseason spot, and the rifle team’s achievements speak for themselves.
Of course, one program’s struggles doesn’t affect another’s, unless there’s something in the water in Morgantown that’s affecting everyone’s aim, marksmanship and overall performace this year. It’s simply one of those odd convergences of the same issue showing up at the same time — and one that hopefully can be reversed as some programs wind up their seasons and another begins preparation for the next.