2018 West Virginia Mountaineers Basketball Predictions with Odds and Expert Picks
I'm a sucker for a system with a catchy name in college basketball. And I love watching the chaos that an aggressive press can cause. I was all in for Havoc when Shaka Smart was doing damage at VCU. And I can't get enough of Press Virginia. It's a perfect name and a system that has won 25 games or more for each of the last four years. It's not just a regular-season phenomenon, either - the Mountaineers have missed the Sweet 16 only once in the four years of this era. Now people are really taking notice, and we get to see if a big change in personnel can be overcome and if Press Virginia can keep rolling on.
West Virginia Mountaineers Additions/Losses
The team has a lot to overcome as they have lost the stellar backcourt that has led the way the last four years. Point guard Jevon Carter was the second choice of the second round in the draft, heading to Memphis. It wouldn't have been hard to argue that he was the best defensive player in the country last year - especially among guards. And shooting guard Daxter Miles Jr., who could score while defending at a high level as well, is in the G-League. The two seniors bought into the system absolutely and were a big reason why it worked. And they were the two leading scorers as well. They leave behind massive shoes to fill.
The team lost three players to transfers, but all you have to do is look at the destinations of two to see how little you have to worry - Nicholls State and Mercer certainly aren't upgrades, and players don't make moves down the ladder if they can cut it where they are. A third player, freshman Teddy Allen, also left for Wichita State. While he played 12 minutes a game last year, his departure is far from crippling.
The team added two highly-touted Juco recruits to provide immediate help. Guard Jermaine Haley is in his second stint in Division I after debuting with New Mexico State, and forward Andrew Gordon is a big man who will fill some rotation minutes effectively. Another big man, forward Derek Culver, is the top-rated recruit in the four-man class, and he will be given responsibility off the bench out of the gate. Smaller guards Jordan McCabe and Trey Doomes are both ideal fits for the system and will get opportunities as well - and there are more of those opportunities this year with Carter and Miles gone. Forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. has some nice upside as well, but he is almost comically scrawny, so he has some work to do in the weight room before he is a regular.
West Virginia Mountaineers Outlook
Coaches lean on systems so they don't have to rely on individual players to determine their fates as much. But when a guy like Jevon Carter comes along, he becomes bigger than the system. Carter was such a freak - a guy who could score effortlessly, run the play competently, and still defend at a ridiculous level. He was the prototype player for this system. And last year he played 35.5 minutes per game, so he was omnipresent. There are some nice guards here now - James 'Beetle' Bolden scored nicely when he played last year and has high potential on both ends of the court, Brandon Knapper is coming off his redshirt and looks like a strong fit, and McCabe, Doomes and Haley all have game. Only Bolden has played in the system, though, so there will be growing pains. The success of this team will be driven entirely by how well someone steps up, takes ownership of the backcourt, and leads. The frontcourt looks solid, and depth is fine, but none of that matters if the guards, which have to drive this system and create turnovers, aren't capable of doing that effectively.
West Virginia Mountaineers Schedule
Let's call it like it is - this nonconference schedule is a bit of a joke. Their preseason tournament is the Myrtle Beach Invitational, which means that the toughest potential games there are Western Kentucky or UCF. Both teams have some things that make them interesting, but they also have issues that should make them beatable. Aside from that, the only real tests are a game against Pitt that is more significant because it is a rivalry than anything else because the Panthers aren't great right now, and a game against Florida at Madison Square Garden. If the Mountaineers lose more than twice before January, we should be very concerned. Later in January, they play at Tennessee for the Big 12/SEC Challenge in a game that will be by far the toughest they play out of conference.
The toughest part of the conference schedule looks to be from Jan. 9-19. They start with a tough one at Kansas State, get a bit of a break against Oklahoma State on the 12th, but then play at TCU on the 15th before hosting Kansas on the 19th. If that backcourt hasn't settled in and stepped up by then, that could be an ugly stretch.
West Virginia Mountaineers Futures Odds
Oddsmakers and poll voters are perfectly aligned here - the team is ranked 13th in the AP poll and has the 13th-lowest price at Bovada to win the national title at +4000.
West Virginia Mountaineers Predictions
I like the players they added, and I like Bob Huggins as a coach. This is quite likely a tournament team. But I am nervous about having so many new faces in the backcourt and am not sure that the pint-sized Bolden is ready to lead the way. It sure feels to me like this ranking is too high.
Doc's Sports Advisory Board has set some lofty standards worldwide for college basketball handicapping. They normally do their best work at the beginning of the season. Get $60 worth of premium members' picks free . No credit card needed, and you will never deal with a salesman. Also, find out more about Doc's Sports expert handicappers college basketball results here . Get daily free college basketball picks on Doc's Sports NCAA hoops predictions page.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
Get all of this Weeks College Basketball Picks
Get all of this Weeks guaranteed Expert College Basketball Picks