Notebook: WVU Gold-Blue Debut

West Virginia guard Seth Wilson (45) tries to turn the corner on offense

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s massively revamped men’s basketball team made its first public appearance on Friday night at the WVU Coliseum, and although the scrimmage was loosely officiated and often defense-free, there were a number of observations to be made concerning the 2021-22 Mountaineers.

Before getting into those, though, a couple of caveats: Judgments based largely on the statistics complied would be very misleading, as the teams played just two 15-minute halves, with fouls only called in the most egregious of situations. Also, the teams were split up, with likely/possible starters or those expected to earn major minutes split between the Blue and Gold teams, which could have robbed each side of the some of the synergy that’s hoped to be developed during the year.

With those cautions in mind, on to some thoughts and initial impressions:

Running the offense and handling the ball on the perimeter is still a search in progress, but might not be at a level of concern that some have placed it at. Transfer Malik Curry and returnee Kedrian Johnson were mostly solid in getting their teams into their attacks, and passed the ball reasonably well, as they combined for 11 assists against four turnovers, and didn’t get stuck with the ball on many occasions.

Freshman Seth Wilson, whose strong build and aggressive play backed up some early observations of his ability, was also respectable, and although he probably isn’t ready to challenge for major minutes yet, he has a number of positives upon which to build. Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil also took some turns getting things started, giving WVU some veteran presence if need be.

This isn’t to say that the Mountaineers have found a total solution to its questions at the position yet, but they do have some candidates that look to be able to get the ball into the lane and find teammates for open shots. This isn’t going to be a point-guard dominated team, but that might not be a requirement.

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The near-total absence of defense was disturbing, and contributed some to the high level of offensive success. As such, all of the stats, such as shooting percentages and relatively low turnover numbers, have to be viewed with a huge grain of salt.

On-ball defense was OK at a few stretches, but many ballhandlers cruised past defenders like high-performance cars on the Autobahn. Hopefully that is a sign of proficiency in that area, but fundamentals of positioning and the ability to stay in front of the ball were mostly lacking. Again, the hope is that some of this is due to the nature of the scrimmage, but if West Virginia’s defense resembles any of this during regular games, it’s going to need to score in the 80s to have any chance.

* * * * * *

Speaking of scoring, most of it is, as expected, going to have to come from the perimeter, the mid-range, and from drives to the bucket. Only on a handful of possessions did WVU throw the ball to a posted-up player with his back to the basket, and that was mostly Isaiah Cottrell, who did show a respectable jump hook over the shoulder on one sequence. There aren’t going to be many post isolations this season, as were a staple of the offense over the last couple of years.

On the plus side, Dimon Carrigan and Pauly Paulicap did get to the rim for lobs and 3-4 dunks, but again, there’s that lack of defense to be concerned with, as rotations when the ball got free were as rare as chants of “Let’s Go Pitt” in the Coliseum.

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All three true freshmen have some chops. Whether that’s enough to see some time this year is still to be determined, both Wilson and Kobe Johnson, who have physiques that look more like those of juniors than first-year players, seemed at ease in competing alongside and against their older teammates. Johnson drained four of his five 3-point attempts, and Wilson, as mentioned, was not overwhelmed in setting the offense.

Jamel King, the late addition to the class, looks taller than his listed 6-foot-7 and like a number of his teammates has a good wingspan and did not back down from any situation. He had a monster contested dunk in the second half that sent Gabe Osabuohien, an opponent on the night, into a huge celebration that included a couple of chest bumps.

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Jalen Bridges continues to be deadly from 3-point range in the corner, which helps keep other spots open on the perimeter for teammates. His game-best 21 points seemed effortless, as his shot looks even smoother and more well-honed that it was a year ago. Add in his game-high eight rebounds, and there’s no question he’s going to be a vital cog this year.

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Osabuohien might have a future as a shot doctor. OK, that’s an overreaction, but he demonstrated what head coach Bob Huggins explained a day earlier, when he said that the super senior had fixed his shot mechanics without assistance from the coaching staff.

A careful watch in pregame revealed a much more repeatable shooting form, with his hand under the ball and a softer release, and that carried over to most of his attempts in the game. There were a couple of 3-point attempts that he’s not going to be taking in the regular season, and one rushed drive/shot that resulted in a heave, but overall the improvement was remarkable.

This does not constitute a prediction that he’s going to become a massive scorer. However, if he can drive the ball from the key and put up good shots as he did in this game, opponents aren’t going to be able to leave him alone as they did a year ago. That’s also going to help his ability to pass the ball, which was already at a high level.

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Seny N’diaye is likely headed for another developmental year, but it’s clear he has been putting in time in the weight room. While he has not massively bulked up, he has much more definition in his upper body, and that should allow him to compete more effectively.

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Whether consciously or not, or due to the split roster, Isaiah Cottrell showed that he is not just an outside shooter. He made six of seven shots inside the arc, with a couple coming off drives, a couple in the mid-range, and more off passes from teammates. In all, it was a tantalizing display of his all-around offensive game, and that is going to be critical for the Mountaineers this year. He can certainly shoot outside, but having scoring threats in the 6-15 foot range (analytics be damned!) are important in making WVU’s offense tougher to defend all over the court.

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    MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s massively revamped men’s basketball team made its first public appearance on Friday night at the WVU Coliseum, an
    [See the full post at: Notebook: WVU Gold-Blue Debut]


    Thanks Kevin.  Appreciate the information


    Great wrap up and synopsis. Interested to see what this group develops into. I cannot imagine a Huggins team without a pretty tough D so that aspect doesn’t concern me. Love hearing about the team and thanks.


    Huggins’ teams usually play some defense. So, let’s hope this one also does. i also hope they can do so without fouling too much.


    I have to admit I am concerned about the defense. 100% agree with the thoughts here about Huggins’ history, but last year I think the defense was average at best outside of Deuce and Gabe.

    Granted, the nature of the scrimmage on Friday doesn’t lend itself to defense. But, Huggs has noted twice in preseason that WVU’s defense has been bad. Some of that may be motivational, so I am not making any definitive statements, but it is worrisome.

    Also, only a couple of trips with a press. I don’t see WVU being able to press full court a lot, but it has a lot on length with the forwards, so some halfcourt and 1-3-1 perhaps?


    I’m not too worried about us not being able to Press full court.  With our length our 1/2 court D may be better also because of the number of guys we have in the front court.  Yes, Huggs is all about the D, but D comes in different styles.

    Biggest thing he keeps talking about is having multiple shooters.  4 or 5 guys that can hit it from deep and force D’s to spread out.  They have to cover 5 and not just 4 or less outside.  Also Curry, Kedy and Taz can put the ball on the floor and multiple guys that can pass.  Don’t think we’ll see the ball pounded as much.


    The only one not mentioned in the article was Taj Thweatt, who deserves a mention if only because he has a great name!


    Taj stat line

    14 pts, 6-10 FG, 2-5 from Three,  3 REB,  1 AS, 1 TO in 25 mins.  He got the most mins of any F on the Blue.

    If he keeps playing like that and can provide some D he’ll get lots of mins.


    Didn’t mean to omit Thweatt intentionally. He played a solid complementary game. He could play multiple spots if his defense is up to it.

    At this point there haven’t been any decisions made abou rotations, and I think that is going to be a work in progress well into the season.


    Huggins made a good point in his presser when discussing the possibility of one guy not playing (?), saying he had 15 guys and didn’t know what to do with all of them, anyway! Probably meant to be funny but very probable!
    It always seemed to me that once you get past 8 or 9 in a rotation that it gets very difficult to establish efficiency on defense and maybe offense!
    Lot of defense is players getting comfortable with each other and their inter dependencies in different defenses! And with the variety of defenses that must be learned, it becomes more prevelant!


    Wouldn’t be surprised is Seny took a RS.


    Seny and Jamel King both candidates for RS in my opinion. Pauly and Dimon both brought in with this exact scenario in mind.


    When we brought in Okonkwo early I thought he was an obvious RS candidate.  But Huggs comments said otherwise.  Now with the injury setting him back 4-6 weeks could that be on the table again?  3 RS’s leaving us with 12 playing.  12 that could get some legit floor time?  How much floor time would Okonkwo get with the 4 other bigs we have?

    That would still give us 4 legit 4/5 types then add Bridges that can move easily to the 4 with Thweatt and Johnson at the 3.   And 5 G’s where we could play 3G shooters on the floor at any time.

    This would still give Huggs flexibility and shooters at the same time.



    After this season, if no underclassmen leave, we will have only 3 scholarships coming in next year, is this right?


    Agree with Kevin, defense may be the biggest question with this group.

    No rim protector per se

    Guards are unproven on D

    Forwards outside of Gabe have no history of great D

    Sure we can put an athletic lineup on the floor but that does not translate to intense defense by any means.



    Enjoyed the article and really enjoyed the Cottrell Q and A.  Very well spoken young man  who seems well versed in the game.


    Both big guys brought in are supposed to be shot blockers.


    Keddy and Taz have good D. Maybee not JC good but still good.


    My bold prediction: Kedrian will be the break out star on the team this year. Not so much for his offense, but I think his hustle, defense, and grit will make him (and Gabe) fan favorites.

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Home Page forums Notebook: WVU Gold-Blue Debut

Home Page forums Notebook: WVU Gold-Blue Debut