NCAA tournament team previews: West Virginia Mountaineers
As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 23-9 (11-7 in Big 12)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 111.2 (33rd)/95.4 (47th)
Seed: No. 5 in Midwest
Impact player: Juwan Staten, senior, guard: 14.5 ppg, 4.6 apg, 110.2 O-rating
The Case For: Any team that won 11 games in the 2014-15 Big 12 is legit. The Mountaineers got off to a slow start in conference play, but a three-game winning streak in mid-February that included victories over Kansas, Oklahoma State and Texas showed what they are capable of in consecutive outings. The full-court press is their calling card, and when it’s clicking—as it was in both games against Kansas, when West Virginia forced a combined 30 turnovers—they can beat anyone in the country. WVU's suffocating press helped the Mountaineers post the highest turnover rate in the country, taking the ball away on 28.2 percent of opponents' possessions. None of Staten's stats are particularly eye-catching, but he always seems to make more plays than whomever he is matched up against. Meanwhile, sophomore forward Devin Williams is averaging 11.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game and is largely responsible for his team's fourth-ranked offensive-rebounding rate.
The Case Against: West Virginia lives by the press, and West Virginia dies by the press. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that this team gives up a ton of easy buckets. The Mountaineers’ defense ranks 300th in the country in effective field goal percentage—306th in two-point percentage and 278th in three-point percentage—and can get burned in both the primary and secondary break. West Virginia really struggles against teams with strong guards that can handle the press, which helps to explain why it was swept by both Iowa State and Baylor. The Mountaineers were also much better in Morgantown than they were on the road, as they had just two wins against tournament teams away from home. When they aren’t getting quick, easy points themselves, they can really struggle to score. They’re 273rd in three-point percentage and 251st in two-point percentage. It will be very hard for West Virginia to win if it can’t force turnovers.