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Nespor: West Virginia Men’s Basketball Mid-Season Superlatives

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WVU sophomore guard Miles "Deuce" McBride (Photo by Dave Eggen/Inertia)

With the West Virginia men’s basketball team still inactive due to COVID-19 protocols until at least Saturday, this is a good time to analyze how the Mountaineers have performed to this point. With 13 of the NCAA-permitted 28 games already played, WVU (9-4, 2-3 Big 12) is just about halfway through its full 2020-21 schedule.

I am going to look at a few different superlatives (most valuable player, best offensive player, best defensive player, etc.) and try to rank the Mountaineers as objectively as I can, relying a lot on advanced statistics from sports-reference.com. I will use some subjectivity to take into account things like playing time.

First, a brief explanation of the advanced stats I will be using:

  • Win Shares (WS): An estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player due to his offense and defense.
    • Offensive Win Shares (OWS)
    • Defensive Win Shares (DWS)
  • Box Plus/Minus (BPM): A box score estimate of the points per 100 possessions a player contributed above a league-average player, translated to an average team
    • Offensive Box Plus/Minus(OBPM)
    • Defensive Box Plus/Minus(DBPM)
  • Player Efficiency Rating (PER): Strives to measure a player’s per-minute performance, while adjusting for pace. A league-average PER is always 15.00.

Most Valuable Player

  1. Miles “Deuce” McBride: 2.0 WS, 9.3 BPM, 21.0 PER
  2. Derek Culver: 1.5 WS, 6.5 BPM, 23.0 PER
  3. Taz Sherman: 1.1 WS, 7.1 BPM, 19.2 PER

No big surprises here. If asked to rank WVU’s three best players this season, I expect most people would certainly name McBride and Culver with Sherman in the mix for third.

Best Offensive Player

  1. Miles “Deuce” McBride: 1.3 OWS, 5.4 OBPM
  2. Taz Sherman: 0.9 OWS, 5.9 OBPM
  3. Derek Culver: 0.7 OWS, 3.7 OPBPM

Again, no surprises here. It makes sense that WVU’s three most valuable players would also be the best on offense. Sean McNeil almost snuck into this top three, tying Culver with a 0.7 OWS, but his OPBM was much lower at 2.2.

Best Defender

  1. Gabe Osabuohien: 0.5 DWS, 5.3 DBPM
  2. Derek Culver: 0.8 DWS, 2.8 DBPM
  3. Miles ‘Deuce’ McBride: 0.6 DWS, 3.9 DBPM

I decided to rank Osabouhien number one even though the numbers are split. According to win shares, all of Osabuohien’s value to WVU comes from his defense and he has a steal rate of 3.5%. Culver gets the second spot because his block rate is 4.4%.

Most Improved

  1. Taz Sherman: 13.9 PER -> 19.2 PER (+5.3)
  2. Miles ‘Deuce’ McBride: 17.5 PER -> 21.0 PER (+3.5)
  3. Derek Culver: 19.7 PER -> 23.0 PER (+3.3)

Sherman has taken that second-year jump WVU coach Bob Huggins expects junior college players to make. His role in WVU’s offense this season has grown as his confidence has risen and he is scoring at a much high clip than he did a year ago.

Best Newcomer

  1. Kedrian Johnson: 0.2 WS, 6.2 BPM, 14.0 PER
  2. Jalen Bridges: 0.3 WS, 2.4 BPM, 13.0 PER
  3. Isaiah Cottrell: 0.0 WS, -3.3 BPM, 7.3 PER

Huggins has not played his newcomers much this season. Johnson and Bridges have just recently seen a boost in playing time and Cottrell was looking very promising prior to suffering a season-ending knee injury.

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Cody spent the last two years getting his master's degree in journalism from WVU. He graduated from Slippery Rock University in 2018 with a degree in digital media production. He was born and raised in Mercer, Pennsylvania.

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