#32 West Virginia: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #32
Conference Rank: #5 Big East Conference
2009-10: 31-7, 13-5
2009-10 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Bob Huggins (80-30 at West Virginia, 670-241 overall)
West Virginia lost three starters from their Final Four team and will almost certainly take a step back this season. However, the Mountaineers are not going to go away under the tutelage of Coach Bob Huggins. This is a program that will continue to compete for Big East titles and be a staple in the NCAA Tournament.
Key Losses: F De’Sean Butler, F Devin Ebanks, F Wellington Smith
Noah Cottrill and Kevin Noreen will not have an easy time cracking the regular rotation, but both incoming freshmen have plenty of potential. Cottrill, a 6-1 combo guard, could help out a backcourt that lacked much of a scoring punch last season. Noreen could be another shooter on this team, but he will do it from the frontcourt. The 6-10 reigning Mr. Basketball of Minnesota will do most of his scoring facing the basket, but his size could come in handy in certain situations.
Darryl Bryant was the star of the backcourt last season after averaging 9.3 points and 3.1 assists per contest. Bryant will barrel his way to the basket and does a great job of using his 6-2, 200 pound frame to attack the basket. However, Bryant has turned into a decent outside shooter as well and that is what makes him so dangerous. Coach Huggins hopes to play Joe Mazzulla alongside Bryant more often than he did last season. Mazzulla has struggled with injuries throughout his career, but he really stepped it up in the NCAA Tournament after Bryant got hurt. He will not put up big numbers, but Mazzulla will make big plays. Casey Mitchell did not make a great impression after showing up in Morgantown from the junior college ranks, but he is a good shooter who will have to play a bigger role off the bench this season. Dalton Pepper only averaged 7.6 minutes per game during his freshman campaign, but he did manage to average 3.1 points during that limited playing time. As a sophomore, he will be ready to play a larger role.
Most teams would be in panic mode after losing double digit scoring forwards Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks. Yet, that is not the case at WVU mostly due to the return of Kevin Jones. The 6-8, 250 pound junior tallied 13.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game last season and he is ready to be the big time scorer and rebounder on this team. Jones’ versatility is what makes him such a dangerous offensive weapon. He is a great shooter for a player of his size and knocked down 40.4 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. John Flowers can hit the outside shot too, but the senior has been sitting down the bench just waiting for his turn to show how good of an athlete he is. Flowers, at 6-7 and 210 pounds, is a little quicker than Jones and should fill in nicely at the small forward position. Cam Thoroughman is a more physical player and has the strength and size to back it up, but he will find it difficult to get too many minutes in this frontcourt.
Who to Watch:
What could be the difference between a good frontcourt and a great frontcourt is the emergence of sophomores Deniz Kilicli and Dan Jennings. Kilicli missed the first 20 games of the season due to amateurism rules, but in his brief time on the floor, the 6-9, 265 pound center proved to be a solid low post scoring threat. Jennings barely saw the floor during his freshman campaign, but his little experience will come in handy and he will turn into a solid contributor sooner or later.
It will be interesting to see how much time Bryant and Mazzulla really spend on the floor together. The lack of experienced perimeter depth may force that issue, but sooner or later Mitchell or Pepper could be worthy of a starting position over Mazzulla. But, however the backcourt plays out, this is a talented and athletic team. Some of the names have changed, but West Virginia will once again be one of the best teams in the Big East and, while another trip to the Final Four may be asking a little too much, this group has the talent to make another nice tournament run.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Joe Mazzulla, Senior, Guard, 2.7 ppg
Darryl Bryant, Junior, Guard, 9.3 ppg
John Flowers, Senior, Forward, 3.1 ppg
Kevin Jones, Junior, Forward, 13.5 ppg
Deniz Kilicli, Sophomore, Forward, 3.5 ppg
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