It's hard to believe but West Virginia basketball is finally here. The Mountaineers will have a different look to them this season with Duece McBride and Derek Culver leaving for the professional ranks and a slew of freshmen and transfers fighting the way into cracking the rotation.
Who is likely to be in the WVU starting five? Let's take a look.
With Miles McBride now in the NBA with the New York Knicks, WVU has to find an answer at point guard. It's going to be hard to replace the production that Deuce put out but with McNeil and Sherman back, Huggins just needs someone who can run the offense without turning the ball over at a high rate and can facilitate the ball. Huggins praised Kedrian Johnson earlier this week stating that he had a very good offseason and could be someone that earns this spot. When you look at the other options (Malik Curry, Kobe Johnson, & Seth Wilson) Kedrian seems like the most ideal candidate. He has the most experience in the program albeit one year and is undoubtedly the fastest player on the floor. Huggins also said that Johnson's shooting has improved as well, so now he's more than just a defensive-minded guard.
McNeil started 23 games a year ago and returns as one of West Virginia's most experienced players. He entered his name in the NBA Draft but withdrew his name after receiving feedback from NBA scouts. McNeil told reporters that the NBA had a ton of really good things to say about his game which surprised him. The one thing scouts want to see more of is scoring off the dribble and creating his own shot. McNeil has been labeled a spot-up shooter through the first two years of his career at WVU. He shot 38% from beyond the arc a year ago which led the team.
This may change once we are a few games into the season but it appears as if Huggins is going to roll with a three-guard lineup. He said that both Sean McNeil and Taz Sherman deserve to start but that having both on the floor leaves them with no offensive spark on the bench. Sherman has a very smooth jump shot and has the ability to go off for 30 points on any given night.
Jalen Bridges was one of the biggest surprises on last year's team. I figured he would be a good player down the road after a couple of years under his belt but he popped onto the scene a year earlier than I expected. Once Oscar Tshiebwe entered the transfer portal, Bridges stepped right in and made an impact. His ability to shoot from deep stretches the floor, forcing the defense to focus on the perimeter.
In 2020-21 we got to see a small glimpse of what Isaiah Cottrell could do. He appeared in ten games before tearing his ACL in a non-conference game against North Texas. With Derek Culver now gone, Cottrell steps into the starting lineup at the five. He's not your traditional big man in that he's not a great rebounder and posts up offensively at the block, he's going to step out and shoot threes, take shots from mid-range, and can pass it really well. If Cottrell stays healthy, it's going to make life a living hell for opposing defenses to limit the Mountaineers' scoring, especially from three.
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