#23 West Virginia Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

West Virginia Mountaineers
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #23
Conference Rank: #3 Big 12
West Virginia comes into the 2016-17 season looking to get a bitter taste out of its mouth after losing to Stephen F. Austin 70-56 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Mountaineers were excellent all season long but simply ran into a buzzsaw in the Lumberjacks in the NCAA Tournament. Moving forward it is going to become very important for West Virginia to find a little more consistency at the offensive end. Defensively, under Coach Huggins the Mountaineers will always be formidable and that’s why they are always going to be in position n to win 20 plus games on an annual basis.
2015-16 Record: 26-9, 13-5
2015-16 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Bob Huggins
Coach Record: 201-110 at West Virginia, 791-321 overall
Who’s Out:
There will be 27 points per game that needs to be replaced with the departure of Jaysean Paige and Devin Williams at the offensive end of the court. Williams also averaged 9.5 rebounds per game last season, which was a big reason why West Virginia was so dominant with its rebounding margin against their opponents. In addition, their experience and overall ability to provide a spark at critical moments are other intangibles that will be very difficult to replace at the start of this season. Jonathan Holton was a solid rebounder too.
Who’s In:
Maciej Bender leads a balanced incoming freshmen class and will provide some nice versatility with his ability to knock down shots from the perimeter as a 6-10 forward. At 6-8 and 250 pounds, Sagaba Konate is another highly touted forward that is a textbook Bob Huggins type of player who is very athletic and will cause havoc at both ends of the basketball court and develop as times goes on. He has drawn some comparisons by the likes of Fran Fraschilla to a young Al Horford. Chase Harler is an in-state product from Wheeling, West Virginia and should compete for playing time quickly in the backcourt and brings a nice mix of instant offense and relentless defense that should fit in well with the West Virginia system.
Who to Watch:
The backcourt of Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles Jr, and Tarik Phillip are going to be a huge key to the success of the Mountaineers season. Carter averaged just under 10 points per game and does a nice job of distributing the basketball. However, it is going to be important for Carter to make his work in the offseason payoff by getting his field goal percentage into the 43-45 percent range this season. Miles Jr. also should see his offensive production increase after averaging 9.4 points per game last season. The free throw percentage for Miles has to improve as he only shot 60.2 percent from the foul line. The ability of Miles to pick up those hidden points at the foul line by shooting 65-70 percent from the foul line will easily push his scoring production up towards 15 points per game. Phillip averaged 9.3 points in just over 22 minutes per game coming off the bench last season and is probably the best perimeter shooter for the Mountaineers. Sophomore forward Esa Ahmad was a top 50 recruit in the class of 2015 and, if he can continue to improve especially at the offensive end, that will make the offensive attack even more dangerous on a nightly basis.
Final Projection:
West Virginia will take part in the NIT Season Tip-Off in late November and will take on the likes of Illinois and either Temple or Florida State on Friday November 25th. On December 3rd, the Mountaineers will head over to John Paul Jones Arena to play Virginia in what should be a great early season litmus test for West Virginia as the Cavaliers should be a top ten team heading into this season. These two clubs met last season at Madison Square Garden and the Mountaineers lost 70-54, but they did lead Virginia 36-30 at halftime but just wore down in the second half against the Cavaliers stifling defense. In Big 12 play, West Virginia will have a chance to get off to a fast start as they will have a road trip to Oklahoma State and Texas Tech to get things started, and they won’t see the likes of Kansas until January 24th at home in Morgantown. This Mountaineers team, when all is said and done, should be in the thick of the Big 12 race for the most of the season and will return to the NCAA Tournament and be better prepared to make a deeper run in the postseason.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Jevon Carter, Junior, Guard, 9.5 points per game
Daxter Miles Jr., Junior, Guard, 9.4 points per game
Tarik Phillip, Senior, Guard, 9.3 points per game
Esa Ahmad Sophomore, Forward, 4.9 points per game
Nathan Adrian, Senior, Forward, 4.5 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 78.5 (48th in nation, 4th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 66.7 (53, 1)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.9 (129, 5)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.4 (113, 5)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.0 (275, 7)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 32.5 (269, 9)
Free-Throw Percentage: 67.3 (269, 8)
Rebound Margin: 8.6 (8, 1)
Assists Per Game: 14.6 (90, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 14.2 (303, 9)
Madness 2016 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#154 Sagaba Konate