2016 NCAA Tournament Preview – West Virginia Mountaineers
The West Virginia Mountaineers (26-8, 13-5), seeded 3rd in this years NCAA Tournament, will take on 14 Stephen F. Austin (27-5) in the first round on Friday at 7:10 p.m. Head coach Bob Huggins will use “Press Virginia” and one of the best West Virginia teams in school history in hopes of making some noise in the tourney.
How they got there:
WVU had its best season since the ’09-’10 year in which they made it to the Final Four with the help of Da’Sean Butler and company. In their 2015-2016 campaign, the Mountaineers seemed to lack such a leader, but instead found something that may indeed be slightly better, Press Virginia. West Virginia was second in the nation in forced turnovers per game with 18.15. Who was first? Stephen F. Austin, their first round opponent. The Mountaineers also found success on the offensive glass, leading the nation with 15.91 offensive rebounds per game. Those stats make up for their off-shooting nights. WVU only hits 32.9% of their 3’s along with 45% of the rest of their attempted field goals.
West Virginia is led by Junior forward Devin Williams, who is averaging just over 13 points and 9 rebounds per game. Williams recorded his 15th double-double of the season against Kansas in the Big 12 championship game. He finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds against the #1 team in the country.
The only other player averaging double digits for the Mountaineers is senior guard Jaysean Paige (Hey. That’s kind of close to Da’Sean. Right?). Paige is averaging 13.9 points per game and is hitting 33% from behind the arc. He’s no Da’Sean Butler, but he could be a key factor in WVU’s quest for a national championship.
Kansas – W (74-63), L (75-65), L (81-71)
Virginia – L (70-54)
Oklahoma – L (70-68), L (76-62), W (69-67)
Baylor – W (80-69), W (69-58)
Texas – L (56-49), L (85-78)
Iowa State – W (81-76), W (97-87)
The Mountaineers went 6-5 versus the Top 25. The 3-seed is the second highest in school history.
Possible path to the Championship:
FIRST ROUND – WVU, who is arguably the best 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, will open play Stephen F. Austin, the best 14 seed in the tournament. This match-up might be one of the hardest ones for the Mountaineers all tournament long, as they will get a taste of their own medicine facing the Lumberjacks’ defense. SFA leads the nation in steals per game and has held opposing teams to an average of just 63.2 points, something that you don’t want to see if you’re a WVU fan. One thing West Virginia has struggled with all season has been shooting, and a good, feisty defense will only make matters worse. I think the Mountaineers barely avoid the upset in this one. Survive and advance.
ROUND OF 32 – A win against SFA would place WVU in a 3/6 or 3/11 match-up against either Notre Dame or. most likely, Michigan. Should the Mountaineers face the Fighting Irish, it’ll be a little harder to force turnovers like they want. Notre Dame lead the ACC in turnover percentage at 13.3 in league games. That being said, it’s hard to prepare for Press Virginia in a week, Notre Dame would get just one day, and they haven’t faced anything like it yet. The same goes for any of the Mountaineers’ opponents following Stephen F. Austin. There won’t be much time to prepare for WVU’s random and very effective full-court press. Onto the Sweet Sixteen.
SWEET SIXTEEN – If the bracket goes as it should, West Virginia would face off against 2nd seeded Xavier. The other possibilities would be Pitt or Wisconsin. Again, the Mountaineers would be favored in any of these games. Why? Believe it or not, you know the answer. Press Virginia. The toughest opponent in a Sweet 16 match-up would without a doubt be Xavier. The Musketeers are 27-5 and are one of the most well-rounded teams in the nation. Over the course of the season, Xavier had a + 7.5 rebounding differential, which means they might be able to hold pace with the offensive rebounding tactics of WVU. Another thing that will benefit the Musketeers is the excessive fouling that results from the Mountaineers’ press. Xavier knows how to make their opponent pay should they send them to the line a lot. This one’s a toss-up for me. If WVU controls the glass and minimizes their fouls, they are almost guaranteed to advance. If they miss out in either one of those categories, fans should start to be concerned.
ELITE EIGHT – Alright Mounties, you’ve made it to the Elite Eight. Here’s one of the toughest opponents you’ll face all season. The North Carolina Tar Heels. UNC’s only barrier before WVU would be the Kentucky Wildcats, who we’ll get to in a minute. As for a WVU/UNC match-up, here’s what you need to know: The Tar Heels are currently 2nd in the nation, averaging 82 points per game and shooting a whopping 52.3% from two-point range. They are led by senior forward Brice Johnson, who is averaging 16.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. North Carolina also poses a threat to WVU because of their ability to beat the press. The Tar Heels are averaging 11 turnovers per game, but their guards are quick and make very smart decisions with the basketball. Marcus Paige will play a huge part in this game, and if the Mountaineers shut him down, it could spell trouble for UNC. West Virginia’s other most likely opponent is Kentucky. The Wildcats may very well upset the Tar Heels in the Sweet Sixteen. If so, the Mountaineers would face yet another team who will be able to fight them on the glass and break the press. Popular opinion would say this is the end of the road for 3-seed West Virginia, but I say there’s a good chance it’s not.
FINAL FOUR – It would be no surprise to anyone to see 2-seed Michigan State make it to the Final Four, if not win the entire tournament. A WVU-Michigan State meeting would mean a battle of the big men. West Virginia’s Devin Williams vs. Michigan State’s National POTY candidate Denzel Valentine. The Spartans ability to dominate the glass will be a huge, huge problem for WVU. Lucky for WVU, however, is the slower pace of Michigan State compared to their previous opponents. The Spartans have been deemed almost automatic from three-point range, but you can ask Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield how that worked against the Mountaineers rowdy defense (here’s a secret: it didn’t work). Limit Valentine’s rebounds and the outside shooting of Michigan State, and you’ve got yourself a great ballgame on your hands. WVU has a shot, time for them to buckle up and take it.
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP – There’s a great possibility that the Mountaineers will see a Big 12 rival should they make it all the way to the Championship. 1-seed Kansas and 2-seed Oklahoma are the South/West Region’s best chance, and WVU has knocked off both teams once this season.
It’s going to take a lot for WVU to be consistent and make a run for a National Championship, but they have the team to do it. There’s an old saying that “defense wins championships,” and for West Virginia, that statement couldn’t be more relevant than it is right now. Defense, defense, and more defense. That’s how they’ll accomplish such tasks against the best teams in the country.
West Virginia won’t outscore you, but they will make you outscore them.
Casey covers NCAA Basketball for MFST. You can follow him on twitter @wxmozz. Check out MyFantasySportsTalk.com for more coverage on the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
https://www.myfantasysportstalk.com/2016-ncaa-tournament-preview-west-virginia-mountaineers/https://i1.wp.com/www.myfantasysportstalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/a-44.jpg?fit=732%2C355&ssl=1https://i1.wp.com/www.myfantasysportstalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/a-44.jpg?resize=150%2C150&ssl=1AnalysisBasketballBig 12NCAABNews and UpdatesRecent Postsbig 12 basketball,ncaa basketball,NCAA Tournament,West Virginia,west virginia basketball,west virginia mountaineers,WVU,WVU basketballThe West Virginia Mountaineers (26-8, 13-5), seeded 3rd in this years NCAA Tournament, will take on 14 Stephen F. Austin (27-5) in the first round on Friday at 7:10 p.m. Head coach Bob Huggins will use 'Press Virginia' and one of the best West Virginia teams in school history in...Casey MosrieCasey Mosriecaseymosrie@gmail.comContributorI attend Marshall University and follow college football and basketball.MyFantasySportsTalk