Bob Huggins has spent a lot of time this offseason insisting his team will be all right, that it will get back to rebounding and defending, that it’ll be able to guard opponents better because similarly sized players can switch things and avoid mismatches. Absent from that list? That West Virginia will score better or more often in the 2014-15 season.
Take away the second-, third- and fifth-leading scorers and that’s a concern. Watch subtractions lead to an addition in the focus on the likely Big 12 preseason player of the year and that’s a concern. Rid the team of its top three 3-point shooter and … actually, that might not be too concerning.
The Mountaineers relied a whole lot on the 3-point shot last season and did so for a couple of reasons. Juwan Staten attracted a lot of eyeballs and his way with the ball and for finding space opened up opportunities for Eron Harris and Terry Henderson and Remi Dibo. But he was pretty much WVU’s only reliable off-the-bounce player and the Mountaineers mostly lacked anyone who could stand near the basket, catch passes and regularly score.
Surely Huggins sought out low post players, right? Uh, no. He didn’t sign anyone bigger than 6-foot-6, though he has 6-7 and 6-9 forwards who will be eligible in the fall. That those arrivals will combine to lead to needed change.
The 3-point shot is worth more, but it costs more, too, because of the added degree of difficulty. How often last season did Huggins say the team that gets the most easy shots wins the game? How often did WVU lose a game in large part because of lousy jump shooting and no Plan B? Oklahoma was the only Big 12 team that counted on the 3-point shot for more of its offense last season, but the Sooners were also very good at running sets and running into the paint and getting nice looks at the basket — and they also made the NCAA Tournament.
WVU is trying to get back there, and the task is harder without the players it lost to other schools or another country, but maybe that all makes things different, if not easier. WVU is replacing scorers who took a lot of 3-point shots with scorers who haven’t taken nearly as many 3-point shots. Huggins believes the losses and their replacements will make the Mountaineers far more athletic next season and able to score better and more often next season.
“We hope we’ve got more guys who can bounce it in the lane and more guys who can make plays in the lane,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said Tuesday.