by Jim Buzzerd
A break in the action
2021 hasn’t been the best for the West Virginia University Men’s Basketball Team. When WVU took the court in Norman, Oklahoma on January 2 they did so without over 13 ½ feet of length they had in their previous game on December 29 against Northeastern. Six-foot-nine-inch Oscar Tshiebwe had quit the team and six-foot-ten-inch freshman Isaiah Cottrell was out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. West Virginia lost that game, managed a miraculous comeback win against Oklahoma State before losing at home to Texas on January 9. That’s when the lights went out (presumably temporarily) on the basketball season.
Three games have been postponed due to undisclosed COVID issues within the Mountaineer’s program. Last Tuesday’s game at Baylor, Saturday’s home game with TCU and last night’s home game with Oklahoma State have been postponed. WVU is set to resume play this Saturday at Kansas State.
Baylor and TCU have been rescheduled; Oklahoma State is pending. As a result of the rescheduling, West Virginia will play Baylor back-to-back on February 15th and 18th, with the first game in Morgantown. After the Baylor game in Waco, WVU will make it three games in a row in the Lone Star State with visits to Texas and TCU. West Virginia is scheduled to play five games between February 13th and the 23rd.
If the next five weeks go uninterrupted, WVU will be quite busy. And how will the Mountaineers look this Saturday after a two-week layoff? We’ve seen a small sample of what WVU looks like with a smaller lineup and they are 1-2 since Tshiebwe left. Personally, I like the idea of a smaller lineup. I was a proponent of reducing the time Tshiebwe and Derek Culver were on the floor together before Tshiebwe quit.
Assistant coach Larry Harrison had some comments last week on the change of personnel. “It is kind of like we are going the route of everyone else,” said Harrison. “From the NBA to college basketball, everyone is playing down, everyone is playing small. Now we pretty much match up with the majority of teams within our conference. If you look around the country, there weren’t too many teams that had two bigs playing like we were with Oscar and Derek.”
“I think we can become a much, much better defensive team as time goes on. We have only played three games without Oscar. If you look from the Oklahoma game to the Texas game, with the style of play, I think we have gotten better on the offensive end. I just think we have to keep working to get better on the defensive end.”
Offensively WVU should get more looks for shooters Taz Sherman and Shawn McNeil. Sherman has been streaky hot, then goes cold for stretches. McNeil has yet to heat up like Sherman has at times. West Virginia needs both to become consistent.