West Virginia Mountaineers
Good Wins: @Ohio State, Providence, Villanova, Notre Dame
Bad Losses: None.
1. Team Defense. In a league stacked with scorers, the Mountaineers provide opponents a rocky terrain to hike. A person is more likely to win the shell game (33% chance) than they are to make a 3-point shot attempt against West Virginia (29%). The personnel are not completely different from John Beillein’s bunch. The commitment to defense has found a home in Morgantown, where individual responsibility surpasses that under the former regime. WVU held a potent Notre Dame offense to under 70 points, which only six other teams managed to do.
2. Dual Threat. Alex Ruoff and Da’Sean Butler have very different skill sets. Even so the two leading scorers for WVU play well in tandem, largely because they score from different points on the floor. Ruoff really succeeds when left open beyond the three-point line. This tends to happen as WVU is grabbing an offensive rebound, which they do exceedingly well. Still learning where he fits in offensively, freshman Devin Ebanks is probably the highest rated WVA recruit since Jerry “The Logo” West. Ebanks tugs down 2.5 offensive rebounds a game. Repeated recipient of the kick out, Academic All-American Alex is as sharp and deadly as a dagger. When WVU scores a big basket by matching the league-wide mandate for athleticism the culprit is always the same. Butler did it. Even when the 1-3-1 defense clogged athletic department whiteboards, Butler was the one player who could benefit any Big East coach.
1. Seniority. It’s a shame Joe Mazzulla injured himself and Joe Alexander left for the NBA. West Virginia has not been a program accustomed to hurried rebuilding.
2. High-end Athletes. Predominantly the result of Beillein’s system and recruiting specificity the cupboard remains predominantly bare for Big East stars. Aside from Butler WVU runs out a lot of stingy defenders. Upon his arrival Ebanks, whom Huggins stumbled upon after the Indiana University debacle, instantaneously doubled the team’s strong swimmer tallies. Next year they will start to swim in the deep end.
Bench: Kevin Jones and Flowers each play about half of the game despite starting with their tooshie on the cushy. The freshman Jones is the kind of tough-minded, big city player new to rural West Virginia hoops. Seven other Big East coaches offered the 6’8″ power forward. Expect many more to matriculate during Huggins tenure.
The Departing: Alex Ruoff has grown into a valuable talent and should impart a need for immediate effort upon his boys. Ruoff is that rare player who shoots very well and passes very well. His numbers of 16 ppg and 3 apg bear that out.
Within Big East play West Virginia never more than three games in a row. The NCAA Tournament will be a consistent barrage of good, hot teams. This team should make it to the Sweet 16, but a 2010 Elite Eight berth is a very real possibility. This year: Sweet 16.