Big 12 Team Preview: West Virginia Mountaineers

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 4th, 2013

This week, the Big 12 microsite will finish previewing each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: West Virginia. 

Where We Left Off: We left off with a year West Virginia hadn’t experienced since legendary coach Gale Catlett’s 8-20 nightmare of a season in 2001-02. While last season’s edition of the Mountaineers won 13 games overall, it felt like eight games considering the success the program had achieved over the past decade. Kevin Jones and Darryl “Truck” Bryant, two integral pieces of the school’s run to the Final Four in 2010, graduated after the 2011-12 season and it seemed their leadership on the court left as well. The responsibility of team leaders fell on the broad shoulders of upperclassmen Deniz Kilicli and Aaric Murray, but their combined struggles on and off the floor set an ominous tone for a team that couldn’t seem to straighten themselves out. The .462 winning percentage in 2012-13 was the worst ever at the Division I level for WVU alumnus Bob Huggins.

I'm sure Bob Huggins would like to smile a bit more in 2013-14. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

I’m sure Bob Huggins would like to smile a bit more in 2013-14. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Positives: One big problem for WVU last season was scoring, but three of the team’s top five scorers are back for another season. Eron Harris was a precocious freshman who didn’t see consistent playing time until conference play, but when he did play he took advantage of the opportunity, leading the team in scoring at a modest 9.8 points per game. The pressure will be on the sophomore Harris to become this year’s go-to scorer. Terry Henderson is back for his sophomore season as well after developing into a threat from behind the arc last season (40%). More will also be asked of Juwan Staten, who transferred over from Dayton last season and now assumes the responsibility as the team’s starting point guard and defensive leader. Another positive is for Bob Huggins to start fresh this season. The leaders of the team are mostly sophomores and juniors, and if you’re a guy with the pedigree of Huggins, you’ve got to feel better about your team winning more than 13 games this time around.

NegativesAnd yet as I make that point about the underclassmen, that could be his team’s eventual undoing. There isn’t a single senior listed on the roster and two of the five juniors are JuCo transfers. How will this young core deal with adversity? While Murray and Kilicli may have disappointed in their WVU careers, at least they were somewhat intimidating forces in the interior. Their departures leaves a gap that could be filled with an unknown commodity in JuCo transfer Jonathan Holton. He had solid numbers as a freshman at Rhode Island, averaging 10.2 points and 8.1 rebounds, followed by 17.5 points and 14.1 rebounds per game while shooting 39.6% from three-point range at Palm Beach State Community College (FL) last season. But that sure is a lot to expect from one guy needing to replace the production of two players.

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Sizing Up a Key Freshman at Every Big 12 School

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 29th, 2013

Brian Goodman is the lead Big 12 correspondent for RTC. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman

The 2012-13 season saw a handful of freshmen throughout the Big 12 make their presences felt around the league. Everyone knows about Marcus Smart, but he was far from the only rookie player who proved himself capable. Perry Ellis, Isaiah Austin, Rico Gathers and Georges Niang also showed opposing players and coaches that they belonged in the conference too. Further down the standings, Josh Gray, Javan Felix and Terry Henderson gave glimpses of what they can do when given opportunities to show their stuff  (although Gray later transferred out of the conference).

Andrew Wiggins will be the top freshman in the Big 12, but after him, it's not so black and white. (credit: ESPN.com)

Andrew Wiggins will be the top freshman in the Big 12, but after him, it’s not so black and white. (credit: ESPN.com)

Once again, the Big 12 will welcome a stellar class of incoming talent this season. We took a look around the conference and plucked one freshman from each team who we think will make the strongest impression. Top to bottom, the Big 12 doesn’t offer quite the depth the SEC — which claims eight of the top 12 prospects from ESPNU’s Top 100 (just to use one recruiting service) — will roll out, but we’re looking forward to watching newcomers from every Big 12 team make strong impressions in their opening campaigns.

Andrew Wiggins, Kansas: Like you, we’ve seen the YouTube clips and read the scouting reports and articles in publications ranging from Sports Illustrated to GQ. Also, like you, we’re ready for Wiggins to make his debut and show everyone in actual games why he’s been the projected top overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft for so long. We agree with Bill Self in that we don’t expect Wiggins to average 20 points per game – today’s suppressed scoring environments and Self’s reputation as a coach who prefers a balanced attack makes that outcome a longshot. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t think the phenom will make a huge impact on both ends of the floor.

Matt Thomas, Iowa State: Despite starting just two games last season, Tyrus McGee was the Cyclones’ second-leading scorer thanks to a white-hot 46.4% shooting clip from long range. Now that he’s gone, though, Fred Hoiberg needs someone to fill the shooting void, and we can easily see Thomas emerging as that guy. The 51st-ranked recruit on ESPNU’s Top 100, Thomas boasts the kind of range that can break games open and cut deficits in a hurry. Once he commands the attention of the league’s defenses, passing lanes will open up to deliver the ball to the likes of Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang.

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Who’s Got Next? Austin Nichols Stays In Memphis; Jarrell Martin Picks Hometown LSU…

Posted by CLykins on November 6th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Chad Lykins, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions dedicated solely to Duke Basketball at Duke Hoop Blog. You can also follow Chad at his Twitter account @CLykinsBlog for up-to-date breaking news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: ESPN Recruiting used for all player rankings

Austin Nichols Stays Local, Picks Memphis

There’s no place like home. At least according to 6’8″ Briarcrest Christian (Tennessee) power forward Austin Nichols, who ended his college recruitment on Monday by committing to the hometown Memphis Tigers. The No. 12 ranked player in the class of 2013, Nichols will join an already loaded recruiting class that includes fellow ESPN 100 prospects small forward Kuran Iverson, small forward Nick King and point guard Rashawn Powell as well as three-star shooting guard Markel Crawford. He chose the Tigers over Auburn, Duke, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Virginia.

2013 No. 12 ranked prospect Austin Nichols completes a stellar recruiting class for Memphis

“At the end of the day, Austin wanted to stay at home and play with some talented guys who he knew very well,” said his father, Mark Nichols. Once back home after completing his last official visit to Auburn, Memphis head coach Josh Pastner showed up at the Nichols residence for one final recruiting pitch. Rumored by many to be fading down the stretch to the likes of Duke and long-time favorite Tennessee, Pastner never wilted and kept pushing to land what he considers a “future Memphis basketball icon.”

With his recruitment shut down for a week once Pastner made his last attempt, the Nichols family spent Sunday night pondering the important decision. Mark Nichols then presented Austin with a 58-page report from KenPom.com to review advanced statistics of each of the six teams he was considering. The innovative approach factored into Nichols selecting the Tigers, which was decided as the perfect place for his future. The allure of playing in the area he grew up and in front of family and friends at the collegiate level proved to be all he could have ever wished for. “I’m just honored, I can’t even explain it,” Nichols said. He intends on signing his national letter of intent during the early signing period, which runs from November 14-21.

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