Maybe the recent mid-season slump by West Virginia shouldn’t be as concerning for Mountaineer Nation as initially suspected.
Despite Coach Bob Huggins’ team’s recent struggles, the Mountaineers’ body of work still remains attractive.
The Big Lead.com ranks West Virginia as one of the top three longshots to claim the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
The website’s premise started with an indisputable recent trend using basketball analyst Ken Pomeroy’s detailed rankings.
Since Ken Pom began tracking statistics in 2001-02, no National Champion has ranked worse than 40th offensively or 20th defensively from an efficiency standpoint.
Only six teams currently fit the 40/20 rule: Clemson, Gonzaga, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue and Tennessee.
And only two others are within five spots of the 40/20 range: Virginia and West Virginia.
Big Lead reporter Vic Chokski likes what he’s seen from the Mountaineers. The support has come during a 15-game winning streak before Big 12 play began. That run boosted them to No. 2 in the Associated Press poll early in conference play last month.
Recent turnaround bodes well for late surge
Since then, the Mountaineers have lost 5 of 6 games before turning their season around recently. West Virginia has claimed 3 of its last 4 games heading into Saturday’s difficult game at No. 13 Kansas.
What Chokski particularly likes about the Mountaineers is their vaunted “Press Virginia” defense. Unlike Big 12 teams which see the Mountaineers’ defense at least twice a season, NCAA tournament games will introduce Huggins’ tenacious press to teams unfamiliar with the strategy.
And particularly when there is a short turnaround in the NCAA Tournament, the defense is particularly lethal.
“A lot of teams have never faced a Mountaineer-type press before, so if you only have one day to prepare for them, watch out,” Chokski wrote.
Huggins has led his team to 8 Sweet 16 berths, 4 Elite Eight trips and 2 Final Four appearances during his career.
The major question appears to be whether the Mountaineers continue their recent offensive surge. West Virginia has hit at least 50 percent in 3 of their last 4 games. And can Huggins engage rim-protecting center Sagaba Konate as an inside defensive force during the rest of the season?
If so, big things might be in the offing for the No. 20 Mountaineers, Chokski says.
“At (West Virginia’s current odds of) 25-1, there is true value in a team this well-balanced,” he writes.
West Virginia could be poised for big things next month if it plays to those expectations.
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