Search For Chemistry Key To WVU Second Half

Search For Chemistry Key To WVU Second Half


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s official class offering lists some 50 classes in chemistry. In those labs and lecture halls on the downtown campus in Clark Hall, students are working on a variety of experiments and projects, trying to get just the right results. Along the way, they must make sure they are using all the right substances, as just one additional element can turn something benign (say, H2O) into something lethal, like H2SO4.

The Mountaineer basketball team probably wouldn’t benefit from any of those sorts of experiments, even though it is searching for just the right mix as it prepares for Kentucky and then the second half of the Big 12 season. Instead, the work is ongoing to find just the right mix of players and skills to get the Mountaineers out of their current 1-3 mini-slump. Their chemistry on the court isn’t a disaster. Perhaps it’s not even a major problem. However, the Mountaineers are still trying to figure out optimal combinations, players that work best together, and how to divvy up playing time to get the best possible results.

WVU doesn’t need this sort of result with its chemistry experiments

One of the challenges to getting those in place is actually an existing strength. WVU has seen different players play and mesh well at different time. It built its 15-game winning streak on that foundation. It had success with three-guard offenses and with bigger lineups deployed to eat up defensive space. It got hot shooting from every guard on the floor in some games, and second chance points to clean up others. However, there hasn’t been one consistent lineup or style of play that has produced consistent results. That makes it difficult to have a “go to” lineup or set of offensive tactics to reply on late in games.

There’s also the ins-and-outs of player availability. Esa Ahmad’s return has been spotlighted as potentially affecting West Virginia’s play, but the benching of Teddy Allen and the groin injury of Beetle Bolden have also contributed mightily to shifting lineups. Just adding in another player, even one of Ahmad’s talent, is challenging enough. But bouncing from game to game with different availability adds an order of magnitude to the difficulty.

Again, this isn’t a hopeless case. WVU deals with foul trouble more often than not, and has to make on-the-fly adjustments when one or more players have to sit to preserve them for late stretches of the game. That’s where that flexibility has come to the fore – in almost every contest up until the Texas Tech game, there’s been a lineup, or a decisive tactical move, that has pushed the Mountaineers over the top. It’s difficult, but not insurmountable.

The question now is, can the coaching staff find those groupings? Perhaps more importantly, will the players buy in, and understand that there are some games where their playing time might be lessened due to match-ups, or due to success of line-ups that don’t include them? If that hurdle is overcome, WVU can continue on the path to the very successful season they have started. Without it, though, their results they get might look something like this: