After starting the season with an 18-4 record and climbing as high as No. 12 in the AP Top-25 Poll, the West Virginia Mountaineers now find themselves out of the rankings and in fear of having to play on the first day of the Big 12 Tournament.
With just one Saturday of Big 12 play remaining, the Mountaineers could finish anywhere as high as third in the conference or as low as seventh. The youngest team in the Big 12, WVU has been inconsistent throughout the second half of the season, especially on offense. Our Mike Asti even labeled McBride the team MVP.
“We’re really young and we haven’t been in situations like that like veteran teams have,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said after defeating Iowa State Tuesday. “We’ve done some really dumb things at times and we’ve had games where we just turned it over repeatedly and gotten ourselves in holes we couldn’t get ourselves out of.”
West Virginia has committed the second-most turnovers of any Big 12 team, ahead of only last-place Kansas State. The Mountaineers are also the worst team in the conference in three-point shooting (28.4%) and free throws (63.8%).
West Virginia’s leading scorer against the Cyclones Tuesday evening was freshman guard Miles McBride, who tied Derek Culver with a team-high 17 points. As a first-year player, McBride has had ups and downs this season just like the team.
In his first nine games this season McBride averaged 6.7 points on 33.3% shooting. Included in that stretch was an 18-point performance that powered a WVU comeback against Northern Iowa in the Cancun Challenge.
McBride scored 15 points in a victory over Nicholls on Dec. 14, which sparked a streak of eight straight games where he would score in double figures. WVU played 11 games from Dec. 14 through Jan. 29, in which McBride averaged 13.4 points on 50% shooting. That stretch included blowout wins over TCU, Texas and Missouri as well as McBride scoring a then-career-high 21 points in WVU’s upset of then-No. 2 Ohio State.
Following Jan. 29, however, McBride, and the team, went on a cold streak offensively. WVU won only three of its next eight games, this McBride averaging just 5.9 points on 30.6% shooting. McBride scored in double digits just once in that span.
“Like most freshmen, he’s been a little bit up and down but he’s had some huge games,” Huggins said. “In the Ohio State game earlier in the year he was very, very good. We’ve just got to continue to work with him. He’s got to continue to get more consistent, but he was very good today.”
Recently McBride’s scoring has ticked back up, scoring 13 points against Oklahoma and the aforementioned 17 against ISU. West Virginia’s final regular-season game is against No. 4 Baylor Saturday. Consistent play out of McBride and the WVU offense would be just what the Mountaineers need to end the season and heading into tournament play.