The NCAA selection committee revealed the West Virginia Mountaineers as a number three seed on Selection Sunday. As always, ups and downs filled the regular season for West Virginia. The Mountaineers at one point won six-consecutive road games in the Big 12, but, on the other hand, the Mountaineers haven’t won against a ranked opponent in almost a month. U92 the Moose's Sports Staff picks how deep the team will go in the tourney, the MVP of the team, and more.
Before we jump into tournament talk, what was your favorite moment of the season?
Connor Taylor: Miles McBride’s game-winner vs. Texas Tech with six seconds left on the game clock. The game had March Madness written all over it. McBride drives in tirelessly to the hoop with the go-ahead bucket, and then Mac McClung’s shot barely misses. This was the moment I started to believe we could win any game.
Mark Schoenster: Probably smacking Kansas at home. We never beat Kansas and being able to thrash them in Morgantown was cathartic.
Liam Belan: The win against Kansas was big for me, as my friend has been a Jayhawk homer since we were young. I've let him know about the win and how their season was a bit disappointing compared to their usual years.
Taylor Kennedy: Any comeback win WVU had, including the one on the road in Stillwater against Oklahoma State. Seeing a WVU team comeback is promising because it shows the team’s resilience. Also, it was against the potential No. 1 in pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
The Mountaineers sometimes looked like a legitimate contender, while at other times, they looked uninspired. What team do you expect in the postseason?
Connor Taylor: A mix of both. The team continues to dominate at moments in a game and then turns around seconds later, acting as if they’ve never played basketball together.
Mark Schoenster: Much like most games this season, we’ll see both in the span of minutes. Moments of brilliance and moments of ugly ineptitude. Let’s just hope there are more good stretches than bad ones.
Liam Belan: In being a Mountaineer sports fan for about two years now, I've learned that they're good for a few heartbreaking losses. I'll just put pessimism aside and say that if they come out and play to their full potential, there are not many teams in the country that can beat them.
Taylor Kennedy: This is a haunting question because the obvious answer is you want to see the hot shooting team. I just want this team to go out there and play for the university and the state, which is what they have been doing all year.
The West Virginia head coach, Bob Huggins, wears his emotions on his sleeve. How early do you think we get a classic Huggins rant on the court?
Connor Taylor: Sadly, with how the Mountaineers are playing, probably sooner rather than later. I say game one, about eight minutes in after a player throws a bad pass out of bounds.
Mark Schoenster: Probably when we start the first game slowly against Morehead State, I can see it now.
Liam Belan: A Jordan McCabe turnover against Morehead State will do him in.
Taylor Kennedy: Whenever one of the guards allows a straight line drive to the basket.
Who needs to step up if the Mountaineers make a run in the postseason?
Connor Taylor: The beauty of this Mountaineer team is three to four players can step up at any moment. That being said, I believe Emmitt Matthews is key to a successful postseason run. Matthews can boost the Mountaineers offensively and defensively just enough to give them the extra kick come tournament time.
Mark Schoenster: A deep run is always facilitated by different players stepping up in different games. Look at UVA’s last run for example. Kihei Clark had a great game vs. Oregon, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy had a great game vs. Purdue, DeAndre Hunter carried the load vs. Texas Tech. WVU will need a Derek Culver takeover game, a Deuce McBride clutch shooting game, McNeil or Sherman having a game with hot hands, Bridges or Matthews making their shots and causing disruption in the paint. It’s all about a different guy stepping up each game.
Liam Belan: I agree with Connor on this one; performances from Deuce, Culver, and Taz/McNeil simply have to happen for this team to succeed. From there, I think Emmitt Matthews can be an x-factor if he can add a bit offensively. Jalen Bridges is another name that, even though he's younger than Matthews, I expect more from than Emmitt. TCU-game Jalen Bridges would make the Mountaineers a force to be reckoned with.
Taylor Kennedy: The three responses above mine are hitting the nail right on the head. Offensively, you want to see your three-headed shooting threat of McNeil, McBride, and Sherman. Matthews will need to be another guy that needs to step up. Defensively, Gabe and whenever he is given minutes Kedrian Johnson. Those two are great and gritty defenders. Their spark could help this team in close games.
Who will be the MVP of the team in the tournament?
Connor Taylor: Is there any other answer than Miles McBride?
Mark Schoenster: There is another answer, Spencer Macke.
Liam Belan: Just to differentiate, I'll go with Taz Sherman here. He’s been playing great in March apart from the TCU game where nothing was falling for the Mountaineers. He took it to Baylor, which gives me confidence that he can fill it up against anyone.
Taylor Kennedy: I want to be different with my answer. My MVP will be Derek Culver. Culver was battling a cold against OKState, and he seemed to be in a dry spell. His ability to create his own shots is what makes him unique. He will help provide the offensive skill set that could boost WVU deep into the tourney.
At one point during the season, the Mountaineers looked destined for a Final Four run. How far do you think West Virginia will go in the tournament?
Connor Taylor: Realistically, with how the season was up and down, the Sweet Sixteen. I hope the Elite Eight and the team can make the Final Four if they catch fire.
Mark Schoenster: Sweet Sixteen would be cool, Elite Eight would be a success.
Liam Belan: Once again, if West Virginia could always play their best basketball, it would easily be an Elite Eight run at least. They were given a favorable draw from the committee, so we'll see how things fare.
Taylor Kennedy: I think anything better than getting bounced in the first round is a success. Think of it like this, there are no players from WVU’s 2018 tourney team on this year’s roster. This is a whole new team with huge aspirations. There are players on this team that were on that bismil of a season in 2018-19. Huge expectations, but getting out of the first round is a plus.
What has to happen for the Mountaineers to win the National Title?
Connor Taylor: If the Mountaineers win it all, it’s because Miles McBride unleashed his clutch gene for three straight weekends. Sadly, if that happens, McBride should enter the NBA Draft. Oh, and the team must play better defense.
Mark Schoenster: Gotta put Derek Culver at the 1 and then let Taj Thweatt cook as the 5. Kidding aside, I pretty much spelled this out earlier with each individual player having a big game on a separate day.
Liam Belan: For the Mountaineers to win it all, Culver and Gabe will have to box out and stay out of foul trouble, Deuce will have to be the best player on the court for most games, and secondary scoring will have to be plentiful through Taz, McNeil, Bridges, and Matthews. Also, you must make free throws to win games in March.
Taylor Kennedy: For WVU to win it all, Illinois has to get bounced. The Fighting Illini have been one of, if not, the hottest teams in the country. The way Illinois plays is special to watch. The Illini have some serious dudes that will play professionally. Outside of a matchup, guard play will be a key to success. When it comes to the tourney, if you don’t have veteran guard play then it will be a short run. WVU has three of the best guards in the Big 12.