Since the start of the 2007 basketball season, Bob Huggins has been the man in charge of the West Virginia Mountaineers’ basketball team. In that time frame, Huggins has amassed a 273-151 (.643) record, while having a career record of 862-363 (.703). He was known for his tough and physical teams going back to the Cincinnati days. Huggins has instilled a very tough and gritty West Virginia brand of basketball over the years.
Return of the gritty
Recently, his teams were referred to as “Press Virginia” because of their full-court cage match they brought every game. Outside of two seasons, Huggins and the Mountaineers have enjoyed consistent success since joined the Big 12 seven years ago. After going 15-21 last year, the Mountaineers have gotten back to that tough, gritty basketball. They are no longer referred to as “Press Virginia,” but the toughness and physicality is as good as its ever been.
This season the Mountaineers have gotten out to an impressive 12-2 (1-1) record. Their only losses were two single digit losses at St. John’s (70-68) and at Kansas in their Big 12 opener (60-53). Outside of the two close losses, WVU has some impressive wins on their resume. They have wins over Pittsburgh, Wichita State, Rhode Island, Ohio State, and most recently Oklahoma State. Currently, the Mountaineers sit right behind conference foe Kansas in the College Basketball RPI Rankings at #2, while also sporting a #11 ranking in the College Basketball NET rankings. Going by the numbers, WVU currently has some of the best wins in all of college basketball. No more non-conference games (outside of Missouri in the Big 12-SEC Challenge) remain. It is all conference foes from here on out. We will see just how good they will be come March.
WVU is one of the deepest teams in the country. They consistently rotate 12 players with 10 of them averaging 12.6 MPG or more. Twelve of them averaging 7.8 MPG or more. One player who has stuck out early is true freshmen Oscar Tshiebwe. Standing at 6’9″ 245 lbs, Oscar is averaging a team high 12.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per contest. Tshiebwe’s presence down in the interior has caused problems for opposing teams with his long, athletic build.
On the offensive side, Oscar and the Mountaineers are bringing in on average 14.5 offensive rebounds a game alone, which ranks 6th nationally. Not only is Tshiebwe gathering a bunch of boards, but Derek Culver has also been a force down low, too. Culver is averaging a team high 9.8 rebounds per contest. While both Oscar and Culver have been roaming the paint, playing physical-big boy basketball, WVU has some solid height and length at other positions as well. Small forward Emmitt Mathews Jr. is a solid 6’7″ 209 lbs, while Jermaine Haley, a shooting guard, is a 6’7″ as well. Point guard Jordan McCabe finishes out the starting five standing at 6’0. Four of the five WVU starters stand at least 6’7 or taller. That plays a big part of their success rebounding the basketball.
Another surprise to the Mountaineer basketball team is freshmen scorer Miles McBride. McBride, who is quietly averaging 9.2 PPG along with 2.6 RPG and 2.3 APG, has shown some offensive flashes early on in the season. Although these numbers don’t jump out at the average fan, McBride has given this WVU team some needed scoring off the bench. Miles has been the sparkplug for the 2nd unit, and that has gained him some minutes with the 1st unit as well. The freshmen has been very impressive thus far this season. If WVU wants to have continued success and perhaps make a deep run in March, they need Miles to come in and hit shots. Unlike most teams, WVU does not have that “go-to” player. Instead, it is more of a collective effort for this team.
Outside of rebounding, the individual stats among players look average. There is no one that’s going to avg 20 pts/game. If you look at the entire 12-man rotation, you will see the stats are widely spread out. So it will be tough for teams to shut them down because they can get contributions across the board. WVU has looked solid thus far against good competition and looks to continue trending up in the rankings. The Fighting Huggy Bears could be a tough out come March.