The 2019-20 WVU basketball season came to an unfortunate end before the team could even play its first Big 12 Tournament game.
Despite that, the team was still basically a lock to make the NCAA Tournament, finishing the regular season with 21 wins and a 9-9 record in the extremely competitive Big 12. It was, as we wrote about a few days ago, a masterful performance by Bob Huggins. What had been one of the most disappointing teams in recent WVU history was transformed into a consistent top 25 team despite only returning 51.9% of the scoring from the prior season and saddled with a young roster with just an average of 1.1 years of experience.
Although the .500 record in-conference didn’t stand out, according to RPI, WVU had the 2nd hardest schedule in the nation, the 4th hardest non-conference schedule and the number one non-conference RPI. The Mountaineers went 7-8 versus quadrant 1 teams, 4-3 against quadrant 2 teams and 8-1 versus quadrant 3 teams.
While the AP recognized the team as one of the top 25 teams in the country, the computers held the Mountaineers in even higher regard.
Here’s just a sampling of some of the more popular ones.
|AP Top 25||24|
Almost to a man, not a single composite or ranking service had the Mountaineers ranked lower than the AP Top 25. To wit, of the 56 tracked by Massey Ratings, only one, the Daniel Curry Index had the Mountaineers out of the top 25 (31). Despite the long losing streak and the struggles on the road, it’s very clear, WVU was a good team.
Breaking down the stats further, we get a good picture of what kind of team the Mountaineers were. For more on what each stat means, check out Basketball-Reference’s glossary.
Offensive rating per 100 possessions (Big 12 rank): 100.9 (5)
Defensive rating per 100 possessions: 89.6 (2)
Differential per 100 possessions: 11.3 (4)
Pace (possessions per 40 minutes): 69.4 (3)
Field goal %: .422 (t7)
Three point shooting %: .286 (10)
Effective field goal %: .465 (10)
Free throw %: .642 (9)
Offensive rebounds per game: 15.2 (1)
Total rebounds per game: 40.5 (1)
They were almost a completely average offensive team (189th out of 353 D-I schools) that got by because of an extremely high free throw attempt rate (17th nationally) and dominating performance on the boards (7th nationally in total rebound % and 1st in offensive rebound %) that offset being one of the worst shooting teams in the nation (321st nationally in true shooting percentage). The Mountaineers were also excellent defensively, allowing only 89.6 points per 100 possessions, a number that ranked them 8th in the nation.
While anything could have happened in the NCAA Tournament, on paper (and on computers) the Mountaineers would have been a nightmare matchup for many teams. It’s just a shame we never got to see it play out.