Tournament Thoughts: Potential Strengths And Weaknesses

West Virginia guard Deuce McBride (4) defends against WKU's Josh Anderson (20)

West Virginia’s wins in the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic highlighted several potential strengths, a couple of Achilles’ heels, and sparked a handful of observations.

While it’s much too early to consider any of these trends or definitive characteristics of the 2020-21 Mountaineer team, they do bear some discussion as they return home, then journey to Indianapolis to take on the No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs in the Jimmy V Classic on Wednesday, Dec, 2.

Shooting is still an issue: Despite reports that the team shot the ball well in preseason work, it hasn’t translated to the court. WVU hit just 41.1% of its shots three games in South Dakota, including 31.7% of its 3-pointers. On the plus side, the Mountaineers averaged 75.7 points per game, with a boost from its free throw shooting. WVU made 74.2% of its freebies, including 15 of 19 against Western Kentucky and 11 of 14 versus South Dakota State. That gives some hope that the Mountaineers will be able to find the range from the field more consistently in the future.

Get all of our print editions with your subscription today!

Tough start for Oscar Tshiebwe: Twice saddled with early-game foul trouble, Tshiebwe has played only half of the minutes available to him. In his time on the court, the sophomore forward has been his usual force on the glass, but has missed several close-in shots that could have benefited from more aggressive takes. Tshiebwe has a natural soft touch on his lay-ups and short hooks, but those are being affected by an almost tentative approach at times. He’s passed up opportunities for two or three dunks, only to see layups bounce off the rim. A couple of strong efforts and aggressive throwdown attempts would be a tonic for him.

Green lights from downtown: West Virginia’s perimeter players would be able to traverse the distance between the Star City and Westover bridges in two minutes if they got as many green lights as they do on the court. WVU launched 60 3-pointers in its firs three games, and it didn’t appear that head coach Bob Huggins was upset with many of them, as no quick hooks for those missing their chances were evident.

To be fair, that total was elevated by 32 hoists from beyond the arc in the opening game against South Dakota State, but the focus here is on more than just the raw number. Some of those attempts came very early in the shot clock, with a subset emanating from the first pass across halfcourt. While there’s no absolute rule in what makes a good shot, getting WVU’s bigs downcourt and in position for a potential rebound is something that should happen on the vast majority of possessions.

West Virginia guard Taz Sherman (12) flips a floater into the hoop

There are positives here, though. Taz Sherman is 7-11 on well-timed and needed threes, while Sean McNeil has drained the same number, albeit on twice as many attempts. Many of those have come at important junctures, as the Mountaineers fought through tough stretches, and have served to cut short the scoring droughts that plagued the team last season.

Defense has seen mixed results: Two big negatives have stood out at various points.

First, opposing big men beat WVU’s downcourt for some easy chances and dunks during the week. That simply should not happen, given the athleticism of West Virginia’s interior players.

Second, while effort has been present, execution in man-to-man defense against screens, rolls and back cuts has been shaky. The Mountaineers allowed a number of easy lay-up and dunks off such action to Western Kentucky, which made 19 of its 25 field goals inside the restricted arc. (WVU, by way of comparison, made 11.)

Again, there are corresponding good items to consider. Opponents shot just 41% overall in the three games, and WVU limited 3-point success to just 24.6%. Those numbers will win a lot of games, and WVU can force those numbers even lower if it can limit some of its defensive breakdowns.

Newcomers aren’t quite ready: WVU’s potential depth has been repeatedly mentioned as a strength, but the Mountaineers played with mostly an eight-man rotation in the opening week. Newcomers Isaiah Cottrell, Kedrian Johnson and Taj Thweatt combined for only 18 minutes, while redshirt freshman Jalen Bridges, seeing his first action in a Mountaineer uniform, saw 17. Cottrell had the only bucket of the foursome, which went 1-12 from the field.

This should not, however, be taken to mean that the group isn’t going to contribute, or perhaps even play a sizable supporting role at some point this season. They all are just taking their first steps in their Division I careers, and as seen time and again, that path is often uneven and rocky in early stages.

As head coach Bob Huggins noted, the closeness of all three games didn’t allow any of them to play major minutes and work through mistakes or uncertainty, and in this season with fewer non-conference games, it may take a bit longer for them to work their way into more confident play. Again, though, there is no reason to think that won’t happen.

West Virginia forward Derek Culver (1) drives against WKU’s Carson Williams (22)

The overall: It may feel as if there are more negatives than positives here, and that’s always a danger when considering the point of view of those who are most familiar with a program. The warts are more evident, the “here we go again” factors more easily bubble to the surface.

In counterpoint, there were many positives in WVU’s play in the first three contests. It continued to earn a rebounding advantage despite foul trouble for its big men. Different players filled gaps when WVU needed it most, from the outside shooting of Sherman and McNeil to the drives of Emmitt Matthews, to the all-around workmanship of Gabe Osabuohien. Improvements in the games of every one of the top eight players in the rotation were evident.

While a lot has to go right in order to compete for a Big 12 title and make a deep postseason run, the Mountaineers do have the ingredients to bake that cake. It’s just a matter of getting all the ingredients in proper order and in the right proportions.



Home Page forums Tournament Thoughts: Potential Strengths And Weaknesses

  • This topic has 13 replies, 8 voices, and was last updated by Butlereer.
Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 15 total)
  • Author
  • #129894

    West Virginia’s wins in the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic highlighted several potential strengths, a couple of Achilles’ heels, and sparked a handf
    [See the full post at: Tournament Thoughts: Potential Strengths And Weaknesses]


    “here we go again” factors more easily bubble to the surface.
    Full court offense against trapping press?
    Almost turned the game off watching our miserable offense against the full court press. Since peewee basketball, kids are taught to NOT
    Pass the ball into the corner! We did it over and over, with the out of bound lines and two defenders causing a 4 on 1 trap!

    Foul line extended man defense?
    Just can’t imagine why we continue to not force the dribble away from base line drives toward central court help and congestion? Is there a logical explanation?

    Defensive switch philosophy on ball screens?
    On just about every occasion the ball driver had a clear path to the basket! Because defender picking up the driver lets him get an angle on him rather than forcing him back to the pick!?

    Deja Vu?


    Tony..dude..I had to laugh…I’m yelling at the the TV…don’t give up the base line. WVU seems to do that, like all the time. Like you I do not understand that. On another note, look at the pic’s of Oscar and Culver both have there lips compressed and problay holding their breaths. To me that looks like their not relaxed, unsure, and not just playing basketball…just a thought. If they keep playing like the 1st 3 games the foul shooting alone will earn them 5 or 6 wins that they would normally lose. When checking WVU B ball stats..foul shooting is the 1st thing I look at….. so very important.


    The dictum of not giving up the baseline was a staple of defense when I was growing up. However, over the past 10-15 years, that has changed. Just as in a press, the baseline is used as an extra defender, and drivers are sometimes invited on that path, and then trapped or cut off with no angle to get a shot away.

    Like everything else, this is dependent on good execution, but allowing the ball to the baseline is no longer an automatic call of bad play by the defense.


    We beat 3 solid teams who will probably be in the Dance. As Huggs said we did not even prepare for full court press (did not know who we would play). To beat real good teams we must hit 3’s … zaga will tell us where we are on the pecking order


    Huggs doesn’t seem very concerned (almost indifferent) about the mistakes mentioned above.  Big change from years past.  I know we can’t really see what going on but he’s definitely not “correcting” poor play.


    I have to admit that I have been a bit puzzled over some of his answers. He definitely seems to be on a positive track this year, from praising preseason shooting to some of the mistakes of the week.

    I would not characterize that as not correcting it in practice, though – juding that from a remote interview is like assessing what was really going on behind the Iron Curtain by watching Soviet exercise videos.

    Maybe he is happy with the individual work players are putting in — the “getting in the gym” he so often mentions — and is trying to reinforce that with more positive comments?


    So far, the biggest problem according to Huggs has been players “pouting” over their lack of minutes. And even that, he seemed to empathize with them, mentioning several times that he wished there had been exhibitions or more warm up games so he could have got guys some court time.


    “Pouting” over minutes isn’t a good thing.  Guys that think they need more minutes need to up their game and don’t do stupid things when they do get into the game.  If that continues it could be a problem in the locker room and we will see more guys hit the portal.


    we played 3 games in 3 days.  I think Hugs was more concerned about winning the next game than correcting mistakes made in the previous game(s).  Those can be corrected once back in Motown.  And probably not all right away.

    But there was only so much time between games in South Dakota.  That was spent analyzing the next opponent, preparing a game plan, communicating and (at least) walking thru the game plan if practice time was limited, and then, as time permitted, going over previous inefficiencies/mistakes.  But not to the point that prep time or execution of the game plan for the next game was short changed.  I don’t know that was what was done, but it certainly seems like a reasonable course of action to me.  But the ideas that we are incapable of doing certain things, or will ever be capable of doing certain things, or the coaches aren’t interested in correcting our deficiencies, seems absurd to me.


    Absolutely Huggs will get things corrected.  Or at least correct problems that can be with the personnel that he has.

    The comment about pouting when we are only 3 days into the season and had 3 pretty tight games is concerning.  Win the games first then give out playing time to the guys that will produce on the floor.   The guys that play solid D and don’t make brain fart mistakes on O will get all the time they deserve.


    Jeff, I missed the “pouting” comment. Was that on his radio show last night?


    I heard the comment but can’t remember whether it was pregame or post game but pretty sure it was with Caridi, not the post game pressers at the tournament.


    Didn’t expect to open this thread and see everyone just focused,  and sometimes looking pretty hard,  for negatives.  You guys know we did some good things too, right?  Talking about some of the comments here not the article.   I mean some of you predicted early in the football season we’d never win another game and that worked out so maybe this will too.


    Hey, if Huggs isn’t blowing out teams and emptying the bench half way thru the 2nd half there must be something wrong.

    Couple of things to work on.  Couple of things that popped up as a huge improvement over last year.  FT shooting.  3pt.  spacing of the bigs.  Not bad for a team that went from the practice floor to 3 straight games against teams that most likely will all be in the Dance.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 15 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.

Home Page forums Tournament Thoughts: Potential Strengths And Weaknesses

Home Page forums Tournament Thoughts: Potential Strengths And Weaknesses