#23 West Virginia Men's Basketball Preview

West Virginia Mountaineers

Overall Rank: #23
Conference Rank: #6 Big East
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2010-11: 21-12, 11-7
2010-11 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Bob Huggins (101-42 at West Virginia, 670-241 overall)

Coach Bob Huggins will have the toughest test of his head coaching career at West Virginia during the 2011-2012 campaign. After four NCAA Tournament appearances in four years in Morgantown, Coach Huggins will have to rebuild with a large group of youngsters and just a few holdovers from last year’s squad. One of those returning players is Darryl Bryant. The bulldozing guard, nicknamed ‘Truck’ for good reason, spent most of his time at the point guard position last season. However, he was moved off the ball late in the year and had his best outings. Wherever he plays, Bryant will have to be a much, much more consistent shooter if he hopes to lead a young and thin backcourt.

Who’s Out:
Joe Mazzulla’s emergence as a senior allowed Bryant to move over a spot. Mazzulla is now gone and that leaves some questions regarding where Bryant will spend the season. Casey Mitchell, the Mountaineers top scorer at 13.6 points per game, will also need to be replaced. Promising guard Dalton Pepper has transferred and even Jonnie West is gone, leaving little experience on the perimeter. The frontcourt was not immune to departures either with John Flowers and Cam Thoroughman moving on. Flowers was a pretty good scorer who could also stretch out the defense with his outside shot and do his fair share on the glass.

Who’s In:
The big need is in the backcourt, but there are only a few players in this large class that can play on the perimeter. However, they are all quality players. Lefty Jabarie Hinds is the prize of the class and is expected to step right into the starting point guard spot. It should not be too difficult to live up to the point guard play of Mazzulla, but Hinds is still just a freshman so it may take a little time before he is comfortable. Gary Browne is another option at the point. He is not as highly regarded as Hinds, but Browne is a good talent who will see quality minutes off of the bench at both guard spots. Aaron Brown is a tough small forward who may slide down to the shooting guard spot at times. He is only 6-3, so he is a little undersized for a small forward anyway. His tough defense should earn him plenty of minutes. The frontcourt has a little more experience coming in with junior college transfer Dominique Rutledge and redshirt freshman Kevin Noreen. Rutledge is a big body who can battle in the paint, but he is currently suspended for violating team rules. Noreen played in seven games last year before redshirting due to a knee injury. Noreen can stretch out the defense with his outside shooting and could emerge as a major scoring threat sooner or later. Incoming freshmen Pat Forsythe, Tommie McCune and Keaton Miles will all get an opportunity to contribute major minutes. But, as usual with Coach Huggins, those who can play defense and rebound will earn the playing time.

Who to Watch:
Kevin Jones is the star of this team. He had a relatively disappointing junior season, but managed to average13.1 points and 7.5 rebounds. Since that is disappointing, Big East opponents should be really afraid of what the 6-8, 260 pound forward can do when he is having a good day. Plenty was learned the hard way last season and will again this time around. Jones is a capable outside shooter and a superb interior scorer and rebounder. Jones will get a lot of opportunities to score and if he can be a little more efficient, he will have a great year. Speaking of efficiency and consistency, that is not a good way to describe Deniz Kilicli. At times the 6-9 junior was great last year. Other times, he disappeared. Kilicli has the potential to be a great offensive threat, but he will likely remain a defensive liability and an average rebounder.

Final Projection:
Last year this was a team that shot pretty poorly. Their defense kept the opposition from scoring much, which kept them in most games and gave them the opportunity to knock off some very, very good teams. The defense should be just fine as Coach Huggins would have it no other way. Anybody who is not ready to play defense at this level will not play. That means the offense just needs to be a little more consistent. If Bryant plays a little smarter and the freshmen can handle the point so Bryant can play off the ball, this team will not just make the NCAA Tournament, but surprise in the Big East as well.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Jabarie Hinds, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Darryl Bryant, Senior, Guard, 11.2 points per game
Kevin Jones, Senior, Forward, 13.1 points per game
Kevin Noreen, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Deniz Kilicli, Junior, Forward, 6.6 points per game

Madness 2012 NBA Draft Rankings:
#47 Kevin Jones

Madness 2011 Men's Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#93 Jabarie Hinds
#125 Tommie McCune

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