What to Expect in West Virginia's Season Opener vs South Dakota State

Three things to watch for in the Mountaineers 2020-21 season opener
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Typically, when I do these articles, I will focus not only on the Mountaineers but also on the opposing team. Since it is early in the season, we will solely focus on what we should expect to see from West Virginia to better grasp what this team will look like.

Domination on the glass

I don't think this comes as much of a surprise with the return of arguably the best frontcourt duo in the country in Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe. These guys played at a high-level last year, but if you remember, there were some games here and there where they were still figuring each other out and learning how to play together. With a full season under their belt playing next to one another, they should appear to be more efficient and, in turn, will be in a better position to score and rebound the ball more often than they already do. Others like Gabe Osabuohien, Emmitt Matthews Jr., and a few newcomers will also help in this category.

Improved 3-point shooting 

The Mountaineers were abysmal from beyond the arc last season, and that's being a bit generous. In some games, it just seemed like they couldn't buy a shot even if there were no defenders within 10 feet of them. West Virginia finished dead last in three-point shooting percentage in the Big 12 Conference at 28.6%. Head coach Bob Huggins has constantly raved about the vast improvements from Sean McNeil, Taz Sherman, Miles McBride, and even junior point guard Jordan McCabe. He went as far as saying, "I would be shocked if we struggle making shots again." The nice thing about having multiple guys that can really shoot it means the lesser of a chance it is where you'll have a night where no one can get in a groove. With as many options as they have in their arsenal, one would think at least one of those guys will be "on" on any given night.

Newcomers will make an impact

This team returns a ton from last year's squad that finished with a 21-10 (9-9) record. With that said, several newcomers will have a rather large role in this year's team.

True freshman Isaiah Cottrell is a guy that Coach Huggins is extremely excited about because he can really stretch the floor and has a solid jump shot for a big. There will be nights where Tshiebwe and Culver either get in foul trouble or just have an off night, and Cottrell will have to step up and play important minutes as a true freshman. He will certainly be in the rotation in the team's season opener, but it's anyone's guess as to how many minutes he will play.

Redshirt freshman Jalen Bridges has a very bright future and can really shoot the ball. He's long, athletic, rangy, and has an aggressive approach on the offensive side. He will be the first one to check in the game for Emmitt Matthews Jr., who will start at the wing.

Junior college transfer Kedrian Johnson and true freshman wing Taj Thweatt will also see some minutes but may be limited early on until they get their feet wet.

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