by Jim Buzzerd
The end is near
It wasn’t long ago if you tuned in to watch a West Virginia University basketball game you might have heard ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla extolling the virtues of the Mountaineers and how they had the potential to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, and possibly all the way to the final four. The NCAA selection committee concurred. On February 8, the NCAA committee released their mid season rankings of the top 16 teams on their board and WVU made the top eight as a two seed.
About two hours later West Virginia lost to Oklahoma in Norman and they are 1-6 since they were presented as a two seed that day. That includes Saturday’s 73-62 home loss in the rematch with the Sooners. Fraschilla hasn’t called a WVU game in a while, but I’d like to hear what he would say about the Mountaineers today as they sit at 19-10 and 7-9 in the Big 12. Fraschilla generally comes off as ‘Mountaineer friendly’; maybe he could offer some hope for a turnaround, but that seems unlikely.
This is the final week of the regular season with a game played last night at Iowa State and a game at home Saturday against Baylor at 1 p.m. on ESPN+. One would be hard pressed, as far as I’m concerned, to make a good argument for even one WVU victory this week.
The late season slide doesn’t involve bad luck, just bad basketball. I don’t break down film or claim to be an X and O guy, but the offense being run by the Mountaineers is broken. Shooting has become a huge problem. Saturday was bad as West Virginia was 24-70 from the field or 34%. That included an abysmal 4-25 from beyond the arc for 16%. And it wasn’t just outside shooting that was bad.
Derek Culver has not been effective offensively during the WVU downturn and was 2-11 Saturday with some head scratching misses that missed the rim by a wide margin. There are too many items with the offense to go over here, but I will try to layout what I think is a large problem.
Shooting obviously. West Virginia is 340th out of 350 Division 1 teams in shooting percentage at 28.3%. Not having good shooters would be an obvious reason for that number to be low, but think about that for a minute.
Does anyone really think there are 339 teams in the United States with better shooters than West Virginia?
I don’t, the answer is a resounding no! I doubt if there are 200 teams with better shooters, maybe only 150; it’s impossible to figure it out from my seat. One thing I am sure of is that nearly every team ahead of WVU takes better three point shots.
Coach Bob Huggins has been around the game for a long time with great success, so early this season when pounding the ball inside to Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe worked things were great. Now teams know that forcing Culver to his right and making Oscar shoot over a defender effectively negates them from getting a good shot.
The maddening part is WVU insists on running the offense through its big men. Its not working and trying to work it inside is using much of the shot clock, which results in a lot of 3-point attempts being hurried late in the shot clock.