One year ago the Mountaineers advanced to the Sweet 16 after knocking off Notre Dame in the round of 32. WVU advances by a score of 83-71. However, the result was not what the team nor fan base had anticipated vs Gonzaga the following round.
The Mountaineers lost a heart breaker 61-58 in the final seconds of the game. West Virginia broke a 55-55 tie with a three pointer from Jevon Carter to give the Mountaineers a 58-55 lead with 1:45 left in the game. The Zags followed that up by getting a bucket of their own to cut the lead down to one. Gonzaga then got a defensive stop, but was stripped by Carter and Adrian had a great look at a bucket underneath before it was swatted away (with a lot of contact) and Mathews hit a three in the corner to give the lead to the Bulldogs late in the game.
The final possession of the game was dreadful. Plainly, there was no movement. Carter was covered tightly and the Mountaineers could not get a shot attempt up before the final buzzer.
Last year Carter was asked by his mom why don’t you take a break before preparing for next season, he replied, “because Gonzaga has a game today and we don’t.”
The shooting was absolutely horrendous as the team went 16-60 (26.7%) from the field and 5-23 (21.7%) from three. West Virginia could not lift the lid on the basket to save their life and what was even more disheartening was that West Virginia had 16 more field goal attempts than Gonzaga and still lost by three.
So, how does the team plan to make sure this years trip to the Sweet Sixteen goes better than the last two? It’s simple. Make open shots. The offense has at times, looked very pedestrian, but overall has been an improvement from last year. A major part of that is the development of Konate’s jump hook and Beetle Bolden seeing more minutes off the bench to provide an extra spark.
Senior guard Daxter Miles Jr. had a fairly poor year shooting the ball, but has caught fire since the Mountaineers made the trip to Lawrence to face Kansas. With Miles stroking it well and the consistency from Jevon Carter I don’t think we will see another 16-60 or 13-54 performance in this years game.
Yes, that is not a typo, you are reading it correctly. West Virginia has shot 29-114 (25%) in their last two trips to the Sweet Sixteen, but those two teams were completely different from this years bunch. Not to mention, the matchups were against Kentucky and Gonzaga which both brought something to the table that the Mountaineers did not have and that was size across the board. Villanova you would think should be a better matchup for Huggins’ squad, no 7-footers and for the majority of the game they like to play with three guards on the court.
On the defensive side for West Virginia, they will want to do their best to run the Wildcats off the three point arc as they shot it 41 times from deep against Alabama. Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Anthony Divincenzo are their go to scorers and will be the fuel to what they do offensively.