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3 Keys to West Virginia’s Gauntlet Through Big 12 Play



Photo: Kelsie LeRose / WVSN

West Virginia basketball has been one of the biggest surprises in the country as Bob Huggins and his coaching staff has built their team around transfer portal additions. Let’s take a look at what WVU needs to do to keep rolling as Big 12 play begins on Saturday.

Continue to Shoot Ball Incredibly Well

Through non-conference play, West Virginia is one of the best-scoring teams in the country. The Mountaineers average 81.3 points, which is 30th in the country. WVU also shoots 49 percent from the field (27th) and 38 percent from three (29th).

Here’s how the leading scorers for WVU are panning out so far:

  • Erik Stevenson: 14.5 PPG / 53% FG / 47% 3FG
  • Tre Mitchell: 12.8 PPG / 54% FG / 36% 3FG
  • Emmitt Matthews: 10.8 PPG / 47% FG / 48% 3FG
  • Joe Toussaint: 10.8 PPG / 40% FG / 31% 3FG

West Virginia needs to continue to run Matthews and Mitchell at the wing positions and not go out of position. The spacing of this team has been beautiful basketball at times. If WVU continues to shoot the ball well, they’ll be hard to beat even in the Big 12.

Use Depth as an Advantage

Another strength WVU has shown through 12 games is its depth. Huggins isn’t letting last year happen again. Last season, West Virginia got bullied and its depth got exposed once they played in the Big 12. This go around, the Mountaineers have a great 10-man deep rotation and have quality players past that.

If there’s a question about the depth, I look at the bigs. In West Virginia’s two losses against Purdue and Xavier, Tre Mitchell and Jimmy Bell have been in foul trouble, leading them to play limited. Mitchell didn’t play the second half against Purdue at all and Bell had to play carefully in crunch time against Xavier. WVU can’t have both Mitchell and Bell in foul trouble consistently. You can’t rely on Mohamed Wague and James Okonkwo, two guys that are still getting comfortable, to hold the paint down for a long period of time.

WVU arguably has one of the best 10-man lineups in the country. They’ll be able to steal games in conference play if used correctly.

Improve on the Rebounding End

West Virginia currently ranks 247th in the country, averaging 34.5 rebounds per game. West Virginia has had poor rebounding nights like tying Stony Brook right before Christmas break.

Here’s WVU’s top rebounders through 12 games:

  • Jimmy Bell / 6.1 RPG
  • Tre Mitchell / 4.7 RPG
  • Emmitt Matthews / 3.8 RPG

Surprisingly it’s still an improvement from last season but WVU still needs to work on improving its rebounding numbers. West Virginia is too athletic and too dynamic to not be at worst a mediocre rebounding team.

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