Huggins Forecasts Change to Starting Lineup

Matt Albright

It's not a great time to be a West Virginia basketball fan. It's even worse to be head coach Bob Huggins.

The Mountaineers have now lost 4 of its last 5 contests after climbing to No. 2 in the nation. More frustrating, West Virginia has held considerable leads in each game.

Luckily, as just fans, we are not faced with the difficult decisions that Huggins has confessed he will soon have to make.

"Beetle (James Bolden) has got to play more and some of those guys got to play less or not at all," Huggins said after the 83-76 loss to Kentucky Saturday night. " I got one guy 2-for-his last 22 from three but continued to shoot them. He won't anymore. He will not do that anymore."

And though he refrained from naming the poor-shooting culprit, it's obvious who Huggins is pointing a finger at, which is why the decision to give Bolden more minutes is proving difficult.

After making a combined 32% of his three-point attempts during his first three years, Daxter Miles Jr. has regressed to making only 24% from downtown this season. And despite his shooting woes, Miles Jr. is attempting more threes per game (4.6) than ever before. The senior guard, however, averages a career-high 12.8 points per game, 3.6 assists per game and has turned into a reliable shooter at the charity strike.

Therein lies the problem. Does Huggins cut into Miles' minutes in favor of Bolden? Or will he insert Bolden into the starting lineup and force Miles to come off the bench?

With only 17 minutes played per game, Bolden is averaging just under 10 points per game, shooting 44% from beyond the arc and is converting on 80% of his free throw attempts. Let's say Huggins throws an extra five minutes of playing time at Bolden, essentially sharing the shooting guard minutes with Miles Jr. Even if Miles Jr.'s production decreases, it'd be safe to assume Bolden could splash in couple more baskets than he usually does. And if one thing is clear, Bolden has been given the green light to shoot when the opportunity presents itself.

Naturally, Miles Jr. isn't the only catalyst of Huggins' angst. Once a prolific scorer, Lamont West is also struggling through a shooting slump. West is attempting nearly twice as many three point shots as he did a year ago but not finding the bottom of the bucket nearly as often. Despite being a sophomore, West has had enough time in the program to not look completely lost like he sometimes does but he still averages over 11 points per contest. At 25.5 minutes per game, Huggins may be more likely to cut into West's minutes to give me more time to Bolden. Doing this, however, forces Huggins to use a smaller lineup than he'd like. Bolden would assume the role as the two-guard while Miles Jr. plays the three. Miles Jr. has had some success posting up guards in the paint and has improved drastically as a free throw shooter when he's fouled. So, in theory, it may work.

There a handful of ways this can be put to fruition, but the end result will be the same.

Expect Bolden's minutes to increase the closer we get to March.

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