Big 12 Summer Update: West Virginia Mountaineers

Posted by dnspewak on August 1st, 2012

In an effort to remind you that college basketball does in fact exist during the summer, Big 12 microsite writer Danny Spewak (@dspewak) will roll out three summer updates per week during the next month. The goal is to compile every bit of news and information from the summer months for each team and package it into neat, easy-to-read capsules for your convenience. Next on the list — Big 12 newcomer West Virginia. 

2011-12 Record: 19-14, 9-9 Big East

It’s been four months since Gonzaga beat the pulp out of West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament, a debacle which prompted Bob Huggins to admonish his team as the “worst defensive team I’ve ever had in 30 years.” Much has changed since that fateful Thursday in March, however. For starters, the Mountaineers don’t even play in the same conference after making the official transition from the Big East to the Big 12 last month. More importantly, Huggins’ roster has changed significantly. Leading scorers Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant graduated, three other players transferred, and his top Class of 2012 recruit had to reclassify and enroll in prep school. After losing nine of its final 13 games a year ago, it’s a season of transition for Huggins and his Mountaineers. Headlined by three Division I transfers — a class which rivals Iowa State’s Korie Lucious and Will Clyburn as the best group of transfers in the Big 12 — Huggins must use this critical summer period to establish roles for not only his newcomers, but also a giant sophomore class ready to bear more responsibility on this team in 2012-13.

Huggins Was a Little Ticked Off After a Poor Finish Last Year

Summer Orientation: Let’s start with the most recent addition to West Virginia’s basketball program: Matt Humphrey. He’s not the most celebrated transfer on this squad (see below), but he joined the Mountaineers’ squad this summer after graduating from Boston College and using the graduate school loophole. Humphrey, who actually began his career by spending two years at Oregon, is somewhat of an enigma. Unlike Huggins’ other highly-coveted transfers, Humphrey brings a few question marks. Despite averaging double figures in scoring as a junior at Boston College, he was not an efficient offensive player, shooting 35 percent from the field and just 31 percent from three. Playing on a horrid team for a coach (Steve Donahue) who emphasizes the three-ball, Humphrey averaged more shot attempts than any other Eagle and did not appear to fit well with the offense. However, there’s a reason an established coach like Huggins saw something in Humphrey, and a closer look at his skill set reveals he may actually be a major coup for the Mountaineers as a late addition. That’s because he will not play the same role as he did at Boston College. He won’t need to lead the team in shot attempts — Huggins has plenty of other scoring options to lean on. All he needs to do is add depth and veteran savvy to a rather young group, and Huggins has already praised his ability to defend on the perimeter and disrupt opponents with his 6’5” frame. Matt Humphrey won’t need to be a savior, so all things considered, it’s a good pickup for Huggins.

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Big East Morning Five: 12.28.11 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 28th, 2011

  1. Most probably expected a routine and mundane news conference from Louisville coach Rick Pitino before Wednesday’s showdown with #12 Georgetown. Instead, Pitino gave reporters perhaps the biggest news story of Louisville’s season to date when he announced that he wouldn’t coach anymore once his contract runs out after the 2016-2017 season. For now, the statement is just that — a statement — and Pitino will have plenty of time to reconsider if he so chooses, but one has to wonder why Pitino decided to break that news now with his team undefeated and conference play set to begin. No one will blame him if he decides to retire, after all, he will be in his mid-60’s with very little left to prove as a coach, but this will have a negative recruiting impact if Louisville doesn’t have a succession plan in place or Pitino doesn’t change his mind. I doubt it will become a distraction in the near future, but keep an eye on this story because it will be a big deal as his contract nears its end.
  2. Connecticut begins conference play tomorrow as well when they square off with cellar-dwelling South Florida. The difference is that while the Cardinals won’t have Pitino on the bench in six seasons, the Huskies won’t have coach Jim Calhoun on the bench tomorrow — albeit only for a short period of time. Assistant coach George Blaney will take over Wednesday as Calhoun begins his three-game suspension for his role in the school’s violations during its recruitment of Nate Miles. Blaney is no stranger to replacing Calhoun for short stints and is 7-8 in his career as acting head coach of the Huskies, but it will be up to the players and how well they listen to the assistants to determine how much influence Blaney has. The good news is that, in addition to the Bulls, UConn starts conference play with Seton Hall and St. John’s, so its not as if the Huskies will play a challenging schedule without their head coach, but it will be interesting to watch nonetheless.
  3. One of our favorite sources for Syracuse information, The Juice, came up with five questions facing the Orange as they prepare to enter conference play and I would like to focus on one of them in particular. The first question is about the team’s center play and whether or not hyped sophomore Fab Melo can continue to show improvement against tougher competition. It’s a question worth asking given Melo’s marked improvements against inferior opponents, but I think the answer is a pretty simple yes. Frankly, Syracuse doesn’t need much out of Melo. They just need good interior defense and rebounding. If Melo can continue to protect the rim, rebound the basketball, and chip in when needed offensively, Syracuse is in great shape for a deep NCAA Tournament run.
  4. The story is somewhat old, but combining a hometown hero storyline with a walk-on underdog storyline is good enough to make the Morning Five no matter how late we catch it. West Virginia freshman walk-on Paul Williamson is getting some serious playing time on a very competitive Mountaineers’ team. Fans probably shouldn’t expect Williamson to become a regular contributor, but his shooting ability and poise allow Bob Huggins to play him until he can no longer hide the freshman’s defensive deficiencies. Will this be a story to watch all season long? Probably not because Williamson isn’t likely to get a lot of playing time in crucial moments, but for a local freshman on a team with NCAA Tournament aspirations to be getting meaningful playing time at this point in the season is a feel-good story for anyone who loves college basketball.
  5. Yahoo! released its Top Five college basketball stories from 2011 and I agree with all them, but don’t agree with the placement. I understand why the author picked Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski becoming the winningest coach in Division I basketball as the top story, but with all due respect, there is simply no way a coach winning a lot of games is a bigger story than what has transpired at Syracuse since the start of the season. Coach K’s record is a nice story and a good pick for the top story if we are looking for a feel-good ending to a trying year, but the Bernie Fine saga dwarfs the record in terms of newsworthiness and importance on a larger scale. I am as sick of the Fine scandal as much as the next man, but his alleged abuse and that of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky are the most important stories in college sports period. They just have too many ramifications for it not to be at the top.
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