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2007-2008 West Virginia Mountaineers Preview

by Andrew Force | November 12th, 2007

2006-2007 Record: 27-9 (9-7), T-7th
Postseason Games:

3/7/2007 Providence Big East Tournament W 92-79
3/8/2007 Louisville Big East Tournament L 71-82 (2OT)
3/13/2007 Delaware State NIT 1st round W 74-50
3/15/2007 Massachusetts NIT 2nd round W 90-77
3/20/2007 NC State NIT Elite 8 W 71-66
3/27/2007 Mississippi State NIT Final Four W 63-62
3/29/2007 Clemson NIT Final W 78-73

Returning Statistical Leaders:
10.9 ppgDarris Nichols
4.3 rpgJoe Alexander
5.3 apgAlex Ruoff

Starting Lineup: Key Stat:
C Jamie Smalligan 7’0” Sr. 46% most accurate 3-pt % (WVU)
PF Joe Alexander 6’8” Jr. Just 4.3 rpg, best WVU returnee
F Da’Sean Butler 6’7 So. 48% FG (tops Big East freshman)
F Alex Ruoff 6’6” Jr. 191 assists, led team
PG Darris Nichols 6’3” Sr. 3.35 A/TO, best in conference

Key Player Losses: Frank Young.

The Mountaineers actually return most of their players from last season. Young led the team in scoring and 3-point shooting, but likely would have needed to change his game the most to fit the new regime.

Coach Bob Huggins claims the new offense will be a merging of Beilein’s and his own. More likely, Huggins offense will resemble Huggins offense of old. Slam the ball down their throats with a penetrating point guard and frighteningly strong power forwards.

Impact Newcomer: John Flowers.

With a little instruction, Flowers has the ability to bloom into a combo forward. He can shoot from the outside and will undoubtedly strengthen in the Huggins’ system. The bulk he adds will make him an important piece in West Virginia’s rebirth.

Tough Question: Who doesn’t fit the puzzle?

Bob Huggins will not play the same way as the former head coach. That much is known. How he will assimilate the players of the former coach remains to be seen. Some of the taller players have never banged in the paint like they will be asked to do for Huggins. A number of these players lack the tenacity to compete like Huggins expects. They will be left behind quickly.

Too Much PT: None.

Get Him on the Floor: Da’Sean Butler. Most of the roster was recruited with outside shooting in mind. The prior priority is no longer pressing.

As a slashing leaper, Butler is the one player that has undeniable Big East talent. He managed to score in double figures last year while playing just half of the game.

Point Guards’ Impact: The point guard had an interesting role in the John Beilein system. He was diving to the basket without the ball, and swinging the baseline in hopes of balancing the court for everyone to shoot from the perimeter. The man labeled point guard, Darris Nichols, did not even lead the team in assists a year ago. That in itself is an indication of how things were run.

All that changes as Bob Huggins assumes control of the Mountaineers. Huggins employs a traditional PG. Nichols will be expected to run the offense, guard the ball-handler, and feed the post with regularity.

Expectations: Jamie Smalligan.

The insertion of a 7’0 shooter into John Bellein’s system seemed an obvious move. After leaving Butler, where bigs shoot from deep, Smalligan found a new home for the lengthy deep shooters.

Unfortunately, Smalligan only got on the floor 14 minutes a game. While Jamie fit the mold of a 2006-2007 Mountaineer, he desperately lacks the skills to be a 2007-2008 WVU player.

Look at former Bob Huggins centers. Kenyon Martin, Danny Fortson, Erik Martin, Eric Hicks. Tough, powerful, bruising players. Smalligan does not fit the bill.

Final Word: The transformation will be immeasurably intriguing. Big men will have completely different responsibilities in the new system. Some will adapt and some will not.

The growing pains will create some interesting on-court play.

–Andrew Force

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