West Virginia: March Madness 2016

Conference: Big 12

Record: 26-8 (13-5)

NCAA Tournament Seed: 3 (East)

How they got to the Big Dance

The Mountaineers went 11-2 in a fairly weak non-conference schedule that included a win against San Diego State, a decisive loss against No. 4 Virginia, and a loss at Florida. However, because they play in the toughest conference in the country, they didn’t need a strong non-conference schedule to get an at-large bid. In the Big 12, WVU earned two wins against Texas Tech, No. 22 Baylor, and No. 21 Iowa State, and one win against No. 1 Kansas. They dropped both of their games to No. 23 Texas, both regular season matchups with Oklahoma, and split the regular season series Kansas. West Virginia handily won their Big 12 quarterfinal game against No. 10 seed TCU, 86-66. In the semifinals, West Virginia upset Oklahoma 69-67 after Buddy Hield’s half-court buzzer-beater was ruled no good. WVU then lost to Kansas in the Big 12 title game, 81-71. The Mountaineers are ranked 10th in RPI.

Why they are a legitimate contender

Employing Bob Huggins’ expertly crafted full-court press, WVU forces 18.15 turnovers per game, which is good for second in the NCAA. The Mountaineers also clean up the offensive boards, grabbing the second most offensive rebounds per game with 14.6. Scoring second chance points will be big for the Mountaineers since they don’t shoot the ball extremely well. WVU also does not allow their opponents to take many shots, limiting them to 20.9 field goal attempts per game, which is seventh in the NCAA. This translates to allowing fewer points per game than most teams. WVU ranks 53rd in the NCAA in scoring defense, allowing only 66.6 points per game. Combine these factors with Bob Huggins’ experience in the NCAA tournament and you have a dangerous team.

Why they are not a legitimate contender

West Virginia struggles shooting the ball. They are ranked 258th in the NCAA in 3-point percentage with a 32.9 percent mark from behind the arc. The Mountaineers are also 113th in the NCAA with a mediocre 45.2 percent shooting percentage from the field. Despite getting to the free-throw line 27.8 times per game, the Mountaineers only make 66.9 percent of their free throws. They also commit 14 turnovers per game, which ranks 294th in the NCAA. Even though the Mountaineers force as many turnovers as they do, it will be hard for them to win the points-off turnovers battle when they commit so many turnovers without shooting very well. This, combined with their poor free throw percentage, could make for an early exit.

Player to watch – F Devin Williams

The 6-foot-9 junior is someone that the Mountaineers can always count on to crash the boards, as he pulls in 9.3 rebounds per game. Williams can also score a lot if WVU needs him to. He averages 13.3 points per game in a balanced scoring attack that has four players averaging close to 10 points per game. Williams showcased his scoring ability in the Big 12 title game, scoring 31 points on an extremely efficient 13-for-15 shooting. If he can score like that in the NCAA tournament, watch out for the Mountaineers.

 

Austin Kleber

Austin Kleber

Managing Editor at The Left Bench
Austin is the managing editor and he covers the Maryland baseball team for The Left Bench. He will also occasionally venture over to the broadcast side to help out with TLBTV. Austin is a sophomore studying broadcast journalism at University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism, graduating class of 2019.
Austin Kleber
About Austin Kleber 56 Articles
Austin is the managing editor and he covers the Maryland baseball team for The Left Bench. He will also occasionally venture over to the broadcast side to help out with TLBTV. Austin is a sophomore studying broadcast journalism at University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism, graduating class of 2019.