5 Reasons Why WVU is a Final Four Team

Schuyler Callihan

Earlier this week, the NCAA set a start date for the 2020-21 college basketball season to begin, and the Mountaineers are locked and loaded with talent that could make them a candidate to reach the Final Four.

With the season just under 70 days away, we take a look at how West Virginia is a Final Four contender.

Best frontcourt duo in the country

Freshman phenom Oscar Tshiebwe is back after flirting with the idea of heading to the NBA (sort of) and will look to dominate the paint once again with fellow big man Derek Culver. The two combined for an average of 21.6 points and 17.9 rebounds a year ago, and at times, they were inconsistent. With a year under their belt, they should have a better understanding of how to play together, which should lead to more points, more rebounds, and even improved defense inside the paint.

Depth, depth, and more depth

Beyond the two-star bigs (Culver and Tshiebwe), the Mountaineers have a handful of other guys they can turn to on the bench without much of a drop-off. Gabe Osabuohien is a gritty, tenacious defender that brings energy and provides a spark off the bench defensively. True freshman Isaiah Cottrell has unreal athleticism and has some range on the offensive end. Once Culver or Oscar leaves, Cottrell will be the go-to guy underneath. Seny Ndiaye is a project, but he will further add to the extremely deep frontcourt if he can put everything together.

At guard, Bob Huggins has so many options. Jordan McCabe, Taz Sherman, Sean McNeil, Miles "Deuce" McBride, and Kedrian Johnson can all handle the ball and run the offense. West Virginia should be able to wear out teams due to the number of guards they can throw on the floor.

Then at the wing, there is finally some help for Emmitt Matthews Jr., thanks to the addition of freshman Taj Thweatt and redshirt freshman Jalen Bridges now getting in the mix. Matthews will undoubtedly be the starter and earn most of the minutes, but having two guys behind him gives Huggins some options.

Improved scoring

West Virginia ranked 254th out of 350 teams in field goal percentage last year at a measly 42.2%, 333rd in free-throw percentage (64.2%), and 338th in three-point percentage (28.6%). Guys that have made shots all their life (McCabe & McNeil) really struggled a year ago and should be much improved in 2020. Emmitt Matthews Jr. had a subpar season offensively by his standards, he too, should improve. Adding one of the best scoring JUCO guards in Kedrian Johnson should boost not only the field goal percentage but also the three-point percentage.

Suffocating defense

As previously mentioned, Gabe Osabuohien is the heartbeat of the defense. He comes off the bench, but chips in a lot of quality minutes. Tshiebwe and Culver had moments last year where they looked like they could be one of the best paint defending duos in the country, but there were too many negative plays as well. West Virginia was 16th in field goal percentage defense (39.1%) and 15th in scoring defense, allowing 62.4 points per game. Bob Huggins and his staff always have it figured out defensively, and this season will be no different.

Experience

Missing the NCAA Tournament this year due to the pandemic could hurt West Virginia in the sense of getting many guys their first postseason experience. With that said, every other team in the country will be dealing with the same issue. The only small difference is that there are zero players on the Mountaineers' roster that have played in the tournament. With two seniors and five juniors, it may not be that big of a problem. Last year, West Virginia was one of the youngest teams in the country, but now, they'll be one of the most experienced.

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THANKS FOR READING MOUNTAINEER MAVEN
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Comments (1)
No. 1-1
PrincessP
PrincessP

Remember how we EASILY cornholed the supposedly "best team in America" to END LAST SEASON? Yup. It happened.
We have a BETTER lineup now.
Do. The. Math.


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