West Virginia Mountaineers: 2012 Season Preview

By Mike Atkinson
Charles LeClaire- US PRESSWIRE

The West Virginia Mountaineers enter another basketball season with a relatively young team.

WVU’s starting lineup consists of two juniors and three sophomores, and only three of the five were starters last season (Deniz Kilicili, Aaron Brown, Jabarie Hinds).

The Mountaineers lost senior forward Kevin Jones, who led the Big East in points per game and rebounds per game, and senior guard Truck Bryant, who also contributed largely to the Mountaineer offense.

Players to watch this season:

Junior forward Aaric Murray is now eligible to play after sitting out last season. Murray was ineligible due to transferring from LaSalle. He is a 6’10 center and can help replace some of the rebounding and scoring the Mountaineers lost with Jones’ departure. Murray looks to be a promising replacement capable of playing solid defense, and he’ll provide a spark down low for WVU.

Jabarie Hinds is a sophomore guard that looks to have improved greatly from last season. Hinds is one of three returning starters for the Mountaineers. He started last season as a freshman, and showed potential to become a great player. He has the ability to become a leading scorer for the Mountaineers.

Juwan Staten is another transfer who is now eligible to play for WVU. He averaged 8.5 points per game and 5.4 assists per game with the Dayton Flyers. He led the Mountaineers in scoring against the Davidson Wildcats with 15 points and also had 5 steals. He will have a huge impact on the team this season with his scoring and ability to force turnovers.

Matt Humphrey, senior transfer from the Boston College Eagles will provide a nice spark off of the bench for the Mountaineers. He has the ability to shoot the three pointer, hitting 55 threes last season for BC. He averaged 10.3 points per game with BC. According to CBS Sports, WVU Head Coach Bob Huggins said this about Humphrey:

“His size and length will definitely make us a better defensive team on the perimeter and should help us create matchup problems for opposing defenses.”

My Reaction to the Davidson Game:

The Mountaineers lost at the buzzer to the Wildcats when Juwan Staten chucked a contested three toward the basket that hit the rim and bounced out.

Three Things jump out at me about this game:

1) WVU, as a team, has a really low basketball IQ.

The team struggled to get good shots, turned the ball over in bad situations, got into early foul trouble, spaced out too much defensively and most importantly couldn’t hit free throws. There was no urgency on offense. This team is very athletic, and could have success with the fastbreak.

Once in the half court, WVU had no motion on offense. There were possessions, including the final possession, where nobody moved, which led to a poor, contested shot.

Now I understand the team is young. This is a group that is still not used to playing together. This is actually good news for WVU fans. I’d be worried if we still see these mistakes halfway through the season but for now, these are errors that should go away after the season develops and players have time to learn more.

2) WVU had no business being able to win this game

WVU fought back late in the game to give itself a chance to win at the buzzer. The Mountaineers are lucky they even had a shot to win this game. As I already addressed there were far too many mistakes to win.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to point out the blowout against the Marist Red Foxes. Clearly, the Red Foxes were not a good basketball team. A lot of people were using that game as an examination of the WVU team. Don’t do that.

It’s really hard to evaluate this year’s team based off of the previous two games they played. First, they played a really good Gonzaga Bulldogs team, then a really bad Marist team. The Davidson game allows a better look at the team, but still not a great one.

3) WVU has serious potential to make a deep tournament run soon.

The talent on the WVU team right now is scary. What’s even scarier is that it’s young talent. Sure, they may not look great now, but they are playing for one of the greatest basketball coaches in the game. If anyone knows how to make a group of guys better its Huggins.

Also, given the fact that WVU will keep its starters barring players leaving early, this could be something to watch. WVU will only lose one starter next season to graduation. After that, they should have the same lineup for at least two years. That’s how championship teams are made. The players will grow together and develop chemistry, and before long, it’s a starting lineup of 4 or 5 juniors ready to go deep into the tournament.

My season prediction for 2012:

Coach Huggins himself called the players the most athletic team he’s ever coached. He also said he thinks they’re a 25 win team, and consistently complains about their low preseason projection for the Big 12.

If Huggins says it, he believes it. He isn’t a coach to blow smoke. If his team is bad, he’ll be the first to say it.

That being said, I think WVU makes a Sweet Sixteen run this season, and finishes 2nd or 3rd in the Big 12.

Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeAtkinsonRS, like him on Facebook, or visit his Rant Sports Author Page.



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