#10 West Virginia Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview

West Virginia Mountaineers
2017-2018 Overall Rank: #10
Conference Rank: #2 Big 12
West Virginia had a great 2016-2017 season and the expectations are even higher heading into the 2017-2018 campaign. Last year Coach Bob Huggins’ squad won 28 games and reached the Sweet 16. Point guard Jevon Carter is back for his senior season and he led the team with 13.5 points and 3.7 assists per game. He is also one of the best perimeter defenders in the country. Coach Huggins always asks his team to play great defense and Carter rarely lets him down.
2016-17 Record: 28-9, 12-6
2016-17 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Bob Huggins
Coach Record: 229-118 at West Virginia, 819-330 overall
Who’s Out:
West Virginia does have some big holes to fill though. Nathan Adrian, a 6-9 forward, averaged 9.6 points and a team high 6.0 rebounds. Elijah Macon was often starting along with Adrian in the frontcourt and the Mountaineers need to find a way to replace his 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds as well. Unlike Adrian, Macon kept his scoring in the paint. Brandon Watkins averaged nearly a dozen minutes per game and proved to be a very good rebounder. The backcourt loses Tarik Phillip, Teyvon Myers and James Long. Phillip is the most significant departure. He averaged 9.5 points per game and was a consistent outside shooter. Myers was a part of the regular rotation and averaged 5.8 points per game.
Who’s In:
The newcomers have some experience and talent, but probably not enough to directly replace all of the departures. Junior college transfers Wesley Harris and D’Angelo Hunter will add immediate experience to a frontcourt that desperately needs it. Both are capable of at least helping out on the glass. Teddy Allen, a 6-5 wing, was a big time prep scorer. He can provide a nice offensive spark off the bench. Brandon Knapper is a highly regarded 6-0 guard who has more than enough talent to join the regular rotation.
Who to Watch:
Esa Ahmad will be the star of the frontcourt this year. He averaged 11.3 points and 4.3 rebounds as a sophomore and will be asked to do more as a junior. With a more consistent outside shot, Ahmad will be extremely difficult to defend. The more important role will be that of the rest of the frontcourt. Sophomores Lamont West, Sagaba Konate, Maciej Bender and Logan Routt will have to be ready to play much larger roles in 2017-2018. West is a great outside shooter and made 35 three-pointers despite averaging just 11.9 minutes per game. Konate was part of the regular rotation as a freshman as well. He led the team with 53 blocked shots. At 6-8, Konate is not the tallest player around, but he is a massive presence in the paint.
Final Projection:
Coach Huggins will want to play big as much as possible again this year. That may depend on the development of the inexperienced frontcourt, but there are options at least. In the backcourt, Daxter Miles is back to start beside Carter. Miles was inconsistent with his shooting last year, but he is a three-year starter and a very experienced player who can do a little bit of everything and do plenty of scoring when his shot is falling. With Carter, Miles and Ahmad, West Virginia has a great core to build around. Those three can take this team to the NCAA Tournament. If the Mountaineers are going to compete for a Big 12 title and make a serious run in the NCAA Tournament, the group of underclassmen and newcomers will have to start living up to their potential very quickly.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Jevon Carter, Senior, Guard, 13.5 points per game
Daxter Miles, Senior, Guard, 8.8 points per game
Lamont West, Sophomore, Forward, 5.6 points per game
Esa Ahmad, Junior, Forward, 11.3 points per game
Sagaba Konate, Sophomore, Forward, 2.8 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 81.5 (23rd in nation, 3rd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 66.7 (48, 2)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.4 (120, 8)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.4 (99, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.4 (164, 4)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.2 (113, 5)
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.5 (234, 8)
Rebound Margin: 3.0 (88, 6)
Assists Per Game: 16.4 (21, 2)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.3 (104, 3)
Madness 2017 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#96 Derek Culver