2012/05/23 12:45 pm
[Note- Segments of this post appeared in the 2011 post entitled "The Bill Stewart Era- 2008-2011". I've updated it for obvious reasons.]
On Monday afternoon, just about every Mountaineer fan around the nation either sent or received a text message conveying a message that seemed hard to believe- Former WVU Head Coach Bill Stewart passed away after collapsing suddenly while golfing at Stonewall Jackson Resort.
In this era of instant communication and social media, reactions came pouring out from seemingly every corner of the country, from former players to fellow coaches to journalists to United States Senators. Most sentiments were eerily similar. "Really, really nice guy. Molded men. Thoughts and prayers to his wife and son."
Mountaineer fans flocked to message boards like the one on this site to express their own sentiments and remembrances, and Stewart's legendary "Leave No Doubt" speech before WVU's 2007-2008 Fiesta Bowl win over #3 Oklahoma was posted and reposted again by folks who simply couldn't believe that the guy who represented the State of West Virginia like no other university coach ever before was gone so suddenly.
Bill Stewart's finest moment as WVU Head Coach made its rounds following the stunning announcement that he was gone.
And as is only human, many writers, bloggers, and message board posters wanted to find a way to put into context what Bill Stewart's legacy would be now that his own time on Earth had been cut entirely too short.
Adding to the difficulty of summarizing his time at West Virginia was the circumstances that led to his departure from the program, which, truth be told, feels like it happened a lot longer ago than it did. It feels unseemly to analyze wins and losses by a football team playing a game, or to talk the events that led to his dismissal. A man has died, and it's only human nature to want to focus on all the positive aspects of his time with us rather than dwelling on the unpleasant times.
In recent days I've read just about every piece that's come out trying to capture the essence of both Bill Stewart as a man and Bill Stewart as a football coach at West Virginia University. From articles like this one from wvillustrated.com warmly remembering time spent with Coach Stewart to this one at scout.com referring the Bill Stewart era as the bridge to the Big 12, to this one from wvmetronews.com arguing that Stew deserved better than he got from WVU when it was over, to this bizarre article from msnsportsnet.com comparing Stewart to Harry Truman.
I think it's possible to acknowledge that Bill Stewart was a really nice guy and a really good representative of both the State of West Virginia and West Virginia University without the need to lionize his time as WVU head coach and the successes and failures both on and off the field.
He wasn't perfect (and wouldn't claim to be) and wasn't the modern incarnation of Bear Bryant. He was a uniquely cheerful and kind-hearted coach in an era that seems to produce neither. He obviously had a tremendous impact on hundreds if not thousands of young men who he molded to be better citizens, scholars, husbands, fathers, friends, Christians, and Americans. His success in that regard can be found in the warm remembrances and well-wishes of his players following the news of his passing.
Stewart will be remembered more for his role in shaping lives than in molding wins and losses.
As far as on-the-field accomplishments, the Bill Stewart Era will be remembered as a period of transition for the West Virginia Mountaineer football program. Stewart possessed none of the dynamism of either his predecessor or his successor, and largely stewarded the program in an adequate, if not always satisfactory manner for WVU fans who'd grown accustomed to BCS Bowl trips during the Rich Rodriguez era. But one thing was certain- Stewart sure did love West Virginia University, the Mountaineers, and the State of West Virginia.
At the time Stewart was hired, even though everyone involved understood that he wasn't necessarily going to revolutionize any aspect of Mountaineer football, a steady hand on the tiller seemed like the right direction for the program. Some complained at the time of the hiring and even more complained after seasons that seemed lackluster compared to other recent successes. Ultimately, Stewart's 28-12 career mark included a .700 winning percentage that ranks fifth among all WVU head coaches. The desire for more success than that seemed vindicated this past January when Stewart's replacement, Dana Holgorsen, guided Stewart's players to a Big East Championship and BCS Bowl win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl. (Stewart hadn't won a bowl since the 2008-2009 season.)
Off the field, Stewart graduated his players at a rate of 90%, which is exceptional in modern major college football, and was a major step up from where Rich Rodriguez left the program. Stewart understood that his "lads" were in Morgantown for more than just football, and prepared a great number of them for the life they would ultimately lead after they wore their Mountaineer jerseys for the last time.
In his 3 years as Head Coach, Stewart was a fine representative of the State of West Virginia, even while sometimes going on rants in press conferences that no one really understood. Stewart understood the importance of the program to the state in general, and also understood the pride that West Virginians have in their One True Team.
Say what you will about how he went out (we'll get to that in a bit), but we knew that being Head Coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers was just about as good of a gig as 'Ol Billy Stew could possibly imagine. WVU fans don't know yet if Dana Holgorsen has the same love of Old Gold 'N Blue deep in his heart or if his eyes start to wander at the first coaching vacancy at a Name School, but we knew with certainty where Bill Stewart's heart would always remain. When he said in his initial press conference that being Head Coach of WVU was his last job, we believed him.
Being the Head Coach of West Virginia University was Bill Stewart's dream job, and it seemed like he appreciated that fact every second of his time there.
Ultimately it was this passion for his job that led to his resignation a year before originally anticipated. While Dana Holgorsen was brought in to steer the Mountaineers in a different direction on the field after a third disappointing season, the Coach-In-Waiting succession plan was expected to work expressly BECAUSE Bill Stewart had a reputation as a high-character individual that would never put his own interests before the interests of the University.
The particulars of the events leading to Bill Stewart's eventual resignation can be found in this article from last year, but suffice it to say that in his own misguided way, it's very possible that Stewart believed he was acting in the best interest of his team, University, and state by providing information to the press that would prevent Dana Holgorsen from embarrassing the program after he eventually took over as head coach.
Maybe Stewart thought it was worth it even if he had to fall on the sword.
After news broke of his involvement in leaking damaging information about his successor to the press (and the subsequent public reaction clamoring for his head), Stewart agreed to a sizable buyout that ended his tenure as Mountaineer Head Coach. He did so in a respectable manner befitting a man who took so much pride in being a Mountaineer. While a press conference was held to anoint his successor, Stewart spoke only through a statement provided to the WVU Athletic Department:
"As I said on the day I was appointed head coach, what is best for WVU is my first priority. Today, I am doing what I believe to be in the best interest of the Mountaineer Nation."
Ultimately, Bill Stewart himself knew that his time at WVU was going to be analyzed mostly for what happened between the lines, but he judged his value by a far higher standard. As this quote from his obituary notes:
“I’m going to be judged on the wins. I know that. However, what I do with these young men’s lives, I’m being judged by the MASTER COACH. And that’s why I lay down every night and sleep very well.”
So it's possible to remember a man fondly without reconstructing history. Sure, many of us wanted more wins from our head football coach, but we also know that we can't forget that Bill Stewart set the standard for how damn proud the Head Coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers should be to hold that position.
He will be remembered for changing the lives of countless young men who, to a man, say that he made them better people.
He will be remembered as being as fine an ambassador for the State of West Virginia and West Virginia University as we will ever see.
He will be remembered for being a genuinely nice, caring, thoughtful, and gracious person and a devoted father, husband, and Christian.
And if you can say all those things about me when I shuffle off this mortal plane, I'll consider my life a success.
God bless Bill Stewart and his family. A grateful Mountaineer nation sends out its thoughts and prayers to you all.
2012/05/09 11:30 am
**YOU HAVE ENTERED THE BIG EAST PRESS CONFERENCE CHAT**
thatsaspicymeat-a-ball: So I said, "RECTUM? SHE DAMN NEAR KILLED HIM!" ahahahaha
thatsaspicymeat-a-ball: Oh, hell. Is this thing starting?
thatsaspicymeat-a-ball: OK then, umm... I'd like to thank members of the Big East media for joining us for this press conference today.
thatsaspicymeat-a-ball: Obviously, the Big East is in fantastic shape after my 3 years at the helm. While those assholes at Pitt, Syracuse, TCU, and WVU CAN ALL BURN IN HELL, we've got an exciting new future with 13 (COUNT EM!) 13 football playing members in fantastic locations like SUNNY SAN DIEGO and EXOTIC HOUSTON!!!
thatsaspicymeat-a-ball: /waits for applause
thatsaspicymeat-a-ball: Sure, under my watch, the Big East lost Pitt, Syracuse (a charter member of the conference), the only respectable football team we had (WVU) who was also a year off from making the Final 4, and a TCU team that hadn't even started playing in the Big East before they fled like a rat on a sinking ship.
thatsaspicymeat-a-ball: And yes, UConn, Louisville, and Cincinnati have all openly yearned to join another conference as soon as they even have a glimmer of opportunity.
thatsaspicymeat-a-ball: And yes, under my watch, the Big East turned down a lucrative offer for TV Rights from ESPN in an apparent attempt to play high-stakes poker even though we were holding the entertainment equivalent of a pair of 4's.
thatsaspicymeat-a-ball: But hey, did I mention that Navy and SMU are joining?!?!
reporter: Excuse me, but we knew all this. Why is there a press conference today?
thatsaspicymeat-a-ball: Oh. I'm resigning.
thatsaspicymeat-a-ball: All the assets are in place right now in the Big East. It's probably time for a commercialized kind of perspective. Clearly the collegiate model is dead.
thatsaspicymeat-a-ball: By the way, I actually said that last one.
reporter: Well, what are you going to do now?
thatsaspicymeat-a-ball: I plan to follow a long, proud family tradition of stepping away from a stressful situation following a period of strong leadership.
**FADE TO MONTAGE**
**YOU HAVE ENTERED THE GETTYSBURG CIVIL WAR CHAT**
robert_E_lee: Nice of you to join us, General Marinatto.
general_augustus_marinatto: No problem, hoss. Where do you need me and my boys?
robert_E_lee: Wait, where is your regiment?
general_augustus_marinatto: We had a few desertions. But it's cool. I grabbed a couple of mules and a box of cigars to replace them.
robert_E_lee: DEAR GOD, MAN. YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO CHARGE WITH PICKETT TOMORROW AND YOU DON'T HAVE ANY MEN!!
general_augustus_marinatto: I'm starting to sense some pressure here that you aren't happy with my leadership.
general_augustus_marinatto: Okeedokee then, I see my work here is done.
**YOU HAVE ENTERED THE CHAT OF THE NORTH ATLANTIC**
uss_titanic_crew_members: CAPTAIN! THERE'S AN ICEBERG STRAIGHT AHEAD!
captainmeatball: Uhhhh, I guess steer... left?
uss_titanic: /strikes iceberg
uss_titanic_crew_members: SHE'S GOING DOWN, CAPTAIN! WE'VE GOT TO ABANDON SHIP!
captainmeatball: Nah, it's cool. Just get on the horn and get some guys to patch it up. It'll be good as new.
captainmeatball: Yeah, they need to bring on someone that knows how to avoid icebergs. Clearly, the maritime model is dead.
**YOU HAVE ENTERED THE 1980s UKRAINE CHAT**
comrade_marinatto: I tell you what, there is nothing like a good nap from 1-3 in the afternoon.
comrade_marinatto: Ok. That's probably bad.
comrade_marinatto: Well, folks, I'm going to be resigning from my position here, as this job has suddenly gotten too stressful for me.
comrade_marinatto: Since it's 1986, fortunately the collegiate model isn't dead. But everyone within 100 square miles of this place probably will be.
comrade_marinatto: Do svidaniya!
2012/03/05 8:43 pm
I am biased.
Make no mistake- Kevin Jones is my favorite WVU basketball player of all time. I love his game, the way he carries himself on the court, the way he interacts with his teammates and WVU fans, his humility, and his tenacity.
Tonight, word leaked out that my favorite player will not win the Big East Player of the Year Award, finishing second to Jae Crowder of Marquette, and as you may imagine, I have a few things to say about that.
First, lest you write off this rant as the baseless complaints of a wronged fanboy, let me give you some numbers:
That's the number of players in the history of the Big East conference to lead the league in both scoring and rebounding, after Kevin Jones did it this season. The other two were Notre Dame's Troy Murphy (2000 and 2001) and Luke Harangody (2008)
Both Murphy and Harangody won Big East Player of the Year.
That's the number of players in the nation that averaged a 20/10 this year- Kevin Jones.
WVU couldn't have asked more of him, and he couldn't have given more in return.
- 20 vs. 17.6
That's the scoring averages of Kevin Jones and Jae Crowder, respectively.
Fun fact- the closer comparison is to Crowder's teammate, Darius Johnson-Odom who averages 18.3 ppg.
That's right, boys and girls. Jae Crowder DOESN'T EVEN LEAD HIS OWN TEAM IN SCORING. Well, he's dominant in other categories then, right?
- 11.2 vs. 7.9
That's their rebounding averages. Jones is 3rd in the nation in offensive rebounds and is almost exclusively responsible for the fact that WVU's most effective offense is usually a missed shot. (I covered that extensively in this article from last week.)
To his credit, Crowder averaged more steals (and finished 7th in the nation in that statistic), but he also averaged more fouls. Nearly every other statistical comparison of the two is insignificant. Crowder averaged a little over half of an assist more per game than KJ, and KJ shot 3% better from the field and had a few more blocks.
- 28% vs. 23%
Kevin Jones scores 20 ppg for a team that scores 72 ppg. (28%) Crowder scores 17.6 ppg for a team that scores 76 ppg. (23%)
So with a team that averages fewer possessions per 40 minutes (66.7 to 70.1), Kevin Jones scores more by over 2 full points.
- 18th and 5th
- 53rd and 79th
That's the national ranking of points per game and rebounds per game of Kevin Jones and Jae Crowder, respectively.
One could conceivably be a NATIONAL player of the year candidate. The other would be laughable.
In fact, one player is a finalist for the Wooden Award, given to the nation's best player, and the other hasn't been considered for it all season.
Keep in mind that these votes come from national media members and not that of anyone in the Big East.
"I'M JUST GETTIN' WARMED UP!"
Obviously, basketball is not a game that can be entirely analyzed by statistics and there is a need to take into account concepts like attitude, leadership, work ethic, etc.
And I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on these intangibles with Jae Crowder. I haven't watched enough Marquette games to have an opinion one way or the other.
But I can tell you that it's not remotely possible that any player in the NATION brought more to the table from an intangibles standpoint than Kevin Jones did this year. The Mountaineers' best player doubled as Big East Babysitter of the Year as WVU shepherded a whopping SEVEN true freshman through a season that saw them finish 8th in the conference.
Every freshman mistake was met with a pat on the back and an encouraging word from the senior who led by example, both in practice and in games.
Bob Huggins noted in several recent interviews that he believes WVU would've had a hard time winning even one game this season without Kevin Jones' efforts both on and off the court.
Work ethic? How about this anecdote from Bob Huggins in an AP article:
Kevin Jones’ blue-collar work ethic made an early, lasting impression on West Virginia coach Bob Huggins.
You think that's the sort of thing that rubs off on teammates?
No team asked more of a player than WVU asked of Jones this season, either. Jones was 7th in the nation in minutes per game for several reasons:
1) He had no real backups available after Pat Forsythe and Kevin Noreen went down with season-ending injuries,
2) Without his rebounding and interior defense, WVU would be eaten alive inside, and
3) Coach Huggins couldn't trust the freshmen on the team to make any in-game adjustments without Jones and Truck Bryant on the floor.
And on top of all this, Kevin Jones carries himself with more class and exhibits more sportsmanship than any basketball player I've ever seen at ANY level. (Seriously- do a Google Images search of "Kevin Jones WVU" and count how many pictures feature him smiling.)
Just one of many images you'll find of Kevin Jones playing basketball the way it's meant to be played.
He never has a moment where his emotions get the better of him on the court. Never gets a technical foul. Never makes an embarrassing statement to the press after a game. Never had a single off-court incident worth any mention.
He's the model student-athlete in all of collegiate athletics, and West Virginia Mountaineer fans should be and are extraordinarily proud that he's represented our university for four years.
Which leads us again to the question...
How in the hell is he not Player of the Year in a conference he dominated?
Argument- Marquette finished 2nd in the Big East and won 13 of its last 15 games, while WVU finished 8th and lost seven of its final 11, so Crowder deserves the award.
This is a team award now? I thought they gave out a different trophy for that. If the award is for best teammates, I would say that this year, Crowder probably wins in a walk.
Obviously team success has some component of being a player of the year, as you wouldn't want to award some guy that was just grabbing stats on a bad team. (A guy who Kenny Smith on TNT refers to as a "looter in a riot.")
But WVU is an NCAA Tournament Team with SEVEN FRESHMEN (six true freshmen) playing significant minutes this season. The leading scorer in that bunch gets less than 8 points per game, and the leading rebounder among them is a point guard.
Kevin Jones' second-best teammate is a shoot-first, turnover-challenged point guard that shot a ghastly 37% from the field for the season.
And just to refresh your memory if you're wondering who Crowder's second banana is, please remember that Jae Crowder DOESN'T EVEN LEAD HIS OWN TEAM IN SCORING. Darius Johnson-Odom does at 18.3 ppg.
And his team's success is more attributable to him than Jones' is to his? Get the eff-word out of here. Let's boil this down to what it's REALLY about...
I suppose Mountaineer fans never should have believed that Kevin Jones ever even had a realistic chance of winning this award, no matter how superior his measurable statistics were to any other player. (In a way, I'm a little ashamed that I allowed myself to believe that I didn't see the inevitability of the shaft he was going to receive.)
WVU fans recieved an indication that Jones was probably going to get screwed as early as late Saturday, as word leaked that Jones was not a unanimous All-Big East First Team selection, meaning that some coach left him off the ballot entirely.
(Put another way- there's a coach in the Big East that either thinks that Kevin Jones wasn't one of the best TWO forwards in the Big East this year, or has a Paul Bunyon-sized axe to grind against Huggins/WVU.)
Just ask WVU quarterback Geno Smith about fair play in Big East postseason awards this year. Smith lost the Big East Offensive Player of the Year award despite having 1,700 (!) more yards passing than any other QB in the Big East, 9 more touchdowns, the fewest interceptions of any full-season starter, all while leading the conference's BCS representative.
(The winner of that award, Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead had a solid season, rushing for 1259 yards and 12 TD's, but only led the league in rushing by 100 yards. Statistically speaking, he wasn't that much more valuable than Lyle McCombs of UConn. Who? Exactly.)
So with two measurably superior seasons by West Virginia University athletes being passed by their own in-conference voting mechanisms, whatever outside influence could there be that might be weighing on these decisions???
Do you think that it could be possible that Big East members are holding a grudge because West Virginia University and the Big East have been involved in a nasty divorce over the last 8 months that led to WVU paying a 20 million dollar buyout to leave the Big East to join the Big 12 next season?
Until I hear an intelligent reason why anyone in the Big East would give the Player of the Year Award to Crowder over Jones, I don't see any other rational explanation.
The butt-hurt Big East rewards a guy who didn't score, rebound, or defend as much and was less important to his team, just like they did in football with Geno Smith. But hey, it's good to see that the Big East is rewarding loyal, storied programs like Cincinnati football and Marquette basketball with trophies that belong to WVU players.
For four years, Kevin Jones has worn a patch on his jersey bearing the Big East's logo, and for four years, he's poured his heart out and represented the league with nothing less than the utmost in ability, effort, class, and dignity. And in this, his crowning season, a season that is statistically historic in the annals of the storied Big East, the Big East is settling a political vendetta by passing him over for recognition.
As Bob Huggins noted on his Twitter page, it's tough to accept that some things you can't control:
The older I get the more I realize the only thing you can control is your attitude. Our team is really disappointed for KJ but we plan on controlling our attitude and having a great attitude towards this Big East Tournament.
A very diplomatic response by Huggs, demonstrating that he and Kevin Jones are classier than the league they're associated with these days.
Ultimately, I realize that this award isn't THAT big of a deal to most of the American sports-loving public. (Do you know who won last year? If you said Ben Hansbrough, you have a better memory than I do. It's worth noting that many at the time argued that UConn's Kemba Walker deserved the award- also having a statistically superior season to the ultimate winner- while it was given to Hansbrough, presumably because he, like Crowder, was a member of a team that finished higher in the Big East standings than Walker's Huskies. So maybe it really is only about the team.)
But when you've got a guy that does EVERYTHING for his team both in terms of on-court production, leadership, intangibles, etc., and he gets passed over for a guy that didn't have nearly the measurable impact on his team (in fact, not even leading that team in the most important statistic in basketball), something is horribly, horribly wrong with the process.
As I said at the outset, I know I'm biased.
But that doesn't mean I'm wrong.
[NEXT DAY EDIT: Coach Huggins weighs in:]
2012/02/25 8:12 am
It's been almost 3 years to the day since the last time this site gave out a Chris Henry Asshole of the Week award. Plenty of deserving candidates have come and gone since then, but we've been hesitant to hand it out since this award's original namesake tragically passed away after falling out of a truck.
But if ever there was a moment that someone needed to be squarely identified as the asshole of all assholes, it is Marquette Coach Buzz Williams, who committed one of the single most classless acts ever seen by an NCAA Basketball Coach following Marquette's 1-point win over the slumping Mountaineers last night.
That's right. He's dancing on the WV logo, to "Take Me Home Country Roads", in front of the student section, nearly inciting a riot in the process.
When asked the general question of "Why in God's name would you do that?" (or as close as Bill Raftery was able to come to that on air, as you could sense he and his partner's unease that Buzz Williams was now in their proximity and therefore in striking distance of various projectiles), he responded, "They're mad at me. I danced on the floor. They got mad. I was two-steppin' to this song. They got mad. That's my fault."
He offered a bit more of a not-really-apology in the post-game press conference, admitting that his dance was unprofessional. “I was just really excited,” he said. “I grew up in the country and ‘Country Roads’ was one of my favorite songs.” Despite his claim that this was one of his favorite songs, Williams also indicated that he didn't know the song was about West Virginia.
(On a separate note, can someone explain to me why WVU plays "Country Roads" after a loss anyway? No one wants to celebrate.)
Sure, it's one thing for a 20-year old college kid to celebrate a win by doing something that he's too stupid to know will necessitate a dozen state troopers to hold back a riot, but this is a coach. A grown-ass man.
And therefore, it is with great pleasure that I bestow the first CHAW Award in 3 years to Buzz Williams for his lack of class, his bevy of stupidity, and the outright assholishness on display following last night's game.
2012/02/22 1:15 pm
With the season drawing to a close and only 4 regular season games left on the schedule, WVU finds itself in an unfamiliar position from the past few years- on the bubble.
A month ago, it looked like the Mountaineers were a lock for the Tournament, and many Mountaineer fans believed that the team should've been highly ranked after wins over Kansas State, Georgetown, Cincinnati, and others.
But the Mountaineers hit a wall that was inconveniently placed directly in the middle of their Big East conference schedule, culminating in losses in 5 out of 6 straight games before hopefully righting the ship at Pittsburgh last Thursday in a 66-48 blowout. (Adios, Pitt. Take that asswhuppin to remember us by.)
So what's been wrong with the team? What are WVU's realistic chances at an NCAA Tournament seed? Can they turn it around in time to make a run in the Big East and NCAA Tournaments?
Glad you asked. /cracks knuckles
(As always, stats in this article come from statsheet.com unless otherwise noted.)
What's been wrong?
Here's a list of things that the Mountaineers don't do particularly well as a team, combined with their national rank in that category in parenthesis.
- Opponent's field goal percentage- 44% (216th nationally, 14th in the BE)
Coming into the season, we knew that there was bound to be some slippage on the defensive side of the ball with so many freshmen running around for the Mountaineers.
That 44% is only slightly lower than WVU's own shooting percentage of 45.4%, which explains why WVU has found themselves in close games for much of the season.
- Fouls committed per game- 21 (326th and 16th)
This is the point of our analysis where many of you probably have some pretty choice words for the Big East's esteemed referees. Lord knows that there's definitely been something fishy about them this year.
But believe it or not, WVU is actually committing less fouls per game than they did last season when they committed 21.2 per game, good for 324th nationally and 16th in the Big East. (And if you want to keep the string going, they averaged exactly 21 per game during their Final Four year in 2009-2010. Which you can afford to do when Da'Sean Butler is dropping daggers at the end of seemingly every single game.)
To put this staggering number into perspective, there are only 344 teams in Division I basketball and WVU has been almost at the bottom for three straight years. So while the temptation is obviously strong to blame the Big East's crooked-ass refs, there's probably another answer there- Bob Huggins-coached teams are physical and foul a lot.
Huggybear has been in the ref's asses a LOT this year. (Justifiably so.)
(AP Photo/David Smith)
- Blocks- 72 (256th and 16th) and steals- (175th and 9th)
Ever notice how WVU never seems to get any fast breaks? This is why.
Kevin Jones is the only player on the team that consistently blocks shots, recording 1.1 per game. (By the way, this is a big improvement for KJ- he only averaged half a block per game last year.) Dominique Rutledge and Keaton Miles have the ability to swat shots away as well, although they both have seen limited minutes so far this season.
Blocks start fast breaks. WVU doesn't get many blocks.
Steals also start fast breaks. WVU doesn't get many steals.
Jabarie Hinds is the Mountaineers' best ball thief with 40 steals despite the fact that he's played over 200 minutes fewer (the equivalent of over 5 full games) than Truck Bryant, who has 29 steals.
The Mountaineers don't create many turnovers and don't get much of a chance to run. And when they do actually run, things like this happen:
I think Hell is a place where I'm strapped to a chair and forced to watch Truck Bryant on an endless series of botched fast breaks.
- Turnovers per game- 13.1 (215th and 8th)
Though this stat puts WVU squarely in the middle of the Big East in terms of turnovers, it's still too high, especially given the previously-mentioned lack of fast-break opportunities.
- 3-point field goal percentage- 31% (282nd and 14th)
You don't have to be Dr. James Naismith to see that WVU simply doesn't have many quality outside shooters. Although this has been true in the past of the Bob Huggins-era Mountaineers, I don't recall another time that saw WVU opponents throwing out a different 2-3 zone every...single...night with the full knowledge that WVU doesn't have the outside shooting to do anything about it.
The sad part of the Mountaineers' woes from the outside is that they're actually getting better shots than WVU teams ever have from the outside, as every team packs in their defense to stop Deniz Kilicli and KJ in the paint.
When analysts say "As Truck goes, so go the Mountaineers," this is the crux of that argument. If Truck Bryant is hot from the outside, defenses loosen up their zone against the Mountaineers inside, freeing up KJ and The Turk. If he's ice cold (which has happened often enough), WVU has no outside threat and the big boys inside see double teams.
The 3 guys on the team who take the most 3-point shots are Truck Bryant (192 attempts), Kevin Jones (104 attempts), and Jabarie Hinds (69 attempts). And they're shooting 31, 29, and 33% on those attempts, respectively.
Only Aaron Brown has a respectable percentage on 3-point shots at 42%, but he's fallen off a cliff lately for some reason. From the January 9 loss to UConn to now, Brown is shooting 10-38 from 3-point range, or 26%.
WVU can't shoot, and opponents know WVU can't shoot. Hence the steady diet of 2-3 defenses even by teams that don't typically play a 2-3.
KJ has been nothing short of awesome this season and is probably the Big East Player of the Year, but he shouldn't be shooting over 100 3's if he's only hitting 29% of them.
Alright, I'm ready to jump off a bridge. Don't we do anything well?
In short, yes. WVU does one thing very, very well.
Rebounding the basketball on the offensive end.
The Mountaineers are among the best in the country in just about every statistic that measures offensive rebounding and the effects of that rebounding. To wit...
Floor Percentage- 57.4 (4th nationally, 2nd in the Big East)
Regular readers will remember articles from previous Huggybear seasons in which I explained that WVU has been very good in a statistic called "floor percentage" over the past few seasons. To explain what it is, here's an excerpt from this article from last year:
(Amazing how little things change, right?)
This season, WVU is 4th in the nation in floor percentage, scoring on 57.4% of their possessions.
And all of this stems from WVU's ability to rebound its misses, which is reflected in another statistic...
Offensive rebound percentage- 40.6 (7th, 2nd)
This might as well be called the "Kevin Jones Stat." Once again, as in years past, when WVU misses shots, they go and get them better than almost any team in the nation. Rebounding percentage shows how often your team will get the rebound as compared to how many rebounds are available to be had.
Many commentators have noted that Kevin Jones is one of the best offensive rebounders in the nation because he pulls down 4.3 offensive rebounds per game (good for 2nd nationally, 1st in the Big East), but that doesn't take into account that Kevin Jones plays for a slow-it-down basketball team that is 158th in the nation in possessions per 40 minutes, and there aren't as many shots for him to rebound as there are for other teams.
Simply put, Kevin Jones is better at offensive rebounding than anyone on the Mountaineer basketball team is at doing anything else.
But offensive rebounding isn't all the Mountianeers do well...
They've vastly improved their free throw shooting.
Many a Mountaineer fan has thrown objects at the TV in anger over the past few seasons watching WVU miss foul shot after foul shot. In fact, the inability to hit free throws cost WVU a few games earlier this season (most notably the Baylor game).
But the Mountaineers have learned the art of free-throw-shooting on the fly this year. (Which actually makes sense given the fact that there are so many freshmen playing and they've adjusted to the stress, the schedule, the weight-room demands of a Bob Huggins team, etc.)
Though their full-season free throw percentage of 66.3% is only good for 263rd in the nation and 14th in the Big East, over the last 6 games, the Mountaineers are 82 for 106 from the line, good for 77.4%.
Put into perspective, 77.4% over the course of the entire season would make the Mountaineers the 4th best free-throw-shooting team in the nation.
(Thank Gary Browne for this improvement. He couldn't hit the backside of a barn earlier in the season and has turned himself into one of the better FT shooters on the team.)
Kevin Jones is Big East Player of the Year, right?
If he isn't I think we know where to place the blame. (Hint: His name starts with an "M" and ends with a "arinatto" and he goes by the alias, "Meatball.")
You want to talk about a guy that has stepped it up for his senior season? Check this out:
- 3rd in the nation in rebounds per game, 1st in the conference. (11.3)
- 13th in the nation in points per game, 1st in the conference. (20.4)
- 5th in the nation in minutes per game, 3rd in the conference. (38.3) (I bring this up because he's never allowed to leave the floor for a breather. Ever.)
- 52.8 field goal percentage, 9th in the conference. (He isn't a volume scorer.)
- 1.1 blocks per game, 15th in the conference. (He's stepped up his D this year as well.)
By my book, if you're leading the conference in points and rebounds and you're anything better than a D+ defender, you're the conference player of the year.
Unless your school is involved in a nasty lawsuit with the conference. Then it's dicey.
So are we going to the dance or not?
The Mountaineers find themselves smack dab in the middle of the Big East standings with road games at Notre Dame tonight and USF at the end of the season sandwiched with home games against #10 Marquette and #493782 DePaul left on the schedule.
Last year, every team that made it to .500 in the Big East made the NCAA Tournament, including the eventual NCAA Tournament Champion UConn Huskies, who finished 9-9 in Big East play. It's very reasonable to think that such may be the case again this year, and the Mountaineers, at 7-7, need to hope that it is.
WVU's RPI in the statsheet.com RPI (which is typically very accurate) is 35th, which should help them as well.
I think it's reasonable to assume that WVU can finish at least 2-2 in its last 4 games to reach 9-9 in conference, and hopefully at least one win in the Big East Tournament. WVU is presently 9th in the Big East and would face #16-seed DePaul in the opening round of the Big East Tournament if the season ended today, as noted in this wvillustrated.com article.)
All in all, I think it's reasonable to think that the Mountaineers will finish with an overall record of 19-12 with an NCAA Tournament appearance as an 8-seed.
Hmm... seems like I've seen those numbers somewhere before.