Monday, December 10, 2007

At the quarter mark

If you haven't seen the WVU basketball team yet you've missed over 25% of the regular season. That is a little shocking. The Mountaineers are off to a 7-1 start and have three more winnable games (UMBC, at Radford, at Canisius) before the schedule starts to toughen up. WVU will play Oklahoma in Charleston on December 29th and then the Big East schedule begins and the Mountaineers don't leave conference play again with the exception of Marshall on January 23rd. A few notes for those that haven't seen the team yet this year.

Defensively the team is playing man to man although not pressing much yet. The team looked a little wobbly early in the season with some difficulties on weak side rotation and stopping the backdoor cuts, but it's getting better each week. Duquesne wasn't able to penetrate without help arriving and the backdoor only worked a couple of times. The Mountaineers have been going small early getting Butler, Flowers, Smith, Jacob Green, and Alexander playing the big men which has worked so far, but may be a problem against some Big East teams (see Georgetown). The athleticism has forced turnovers, WVU is forcing 13.4 turnovers per game, and sped the game up a little as help defense is coming quick and recovery is also quick as the team is more athletic without a true center. Also without a true center playing many minutes (Smalligan is neither a true center nor one that plays many minutes) WVU is still blocking 6.4 shots per game.

Despite constantly going to a small lineup the biggest surprise of the season has been rebounding. Not sure if it is the added beef, the added attention to rebounding as a detail with Huggins, or added athleticism on the court but WVU is outrebounding opponents by a +5.6 margin. As BSR has noted the 1-3-1 wasn't really set up for rebounding with Darris Nichols manning the low box. It was more predicated on turnovers and forcing quick shots. The man defense has controlled the glass and WVU has only given up 5 or so offensive rebounds on a foul shot which was 50-50 last year at best. WVU has only been outrebounded twice with those games being New Mexico State and Auburn, but to be fair Auburn had the advantage of having seen themselves shoot before so they knew the crazy angles their misses might be taking.

Another change is more of an uptempo style of play on offense. WVU ran the last few years, but always had a methodical half court offense. The offense waited for a breakdown to lead to a backdoor layup or a three. Those playing good defense could often force the offense to become stagnant relying on long threes as the shot clock wound down. The hybrid Beilein/Huggins offense has had some growing pains, most notably the Tennessee game, but has managed at least 70 points in every outing. The offense still moves the ball well and everyone can handle, but there is more isolation when the team has a mismatch. Huggins also has installed the patented drive and kick he is known for. This calls for the same spacing needed in Beilein's offense. Against Tennessee the driver kept kicking to the spot he had left which made it easy for the defense, that seems to have been corrected.

Overall the team is still shooting threes (making twice as many as opponents) and outscoring the opponent by over 30 a game. WVU is averaging 86.8 points and has an assist too turnover margin of +1.4 while opponents only have +.4. This team has has shown the ability to defend, run, and handle the ball. Those who haven't seen this team yet will be pleasantly surprised as there is a little bit of everything. Even something for the ladies as they can look at Alex Ruoff's arms as he flexes runs down the court. Besides if you don't watch them Huggins will write a letter calling you out, and you don't want on Huggy's bad side.


The Duke said...

WVU has a great team, anyone who has an opportunity to see them in person should take advantage.

Best of luck to the Mountaineers the rest of the way.

The Duke from Dukes Court

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