Breathe it in, Big East basketball is back. College basketball fans are an ironic group, the "cold dark winter" of the post-season is behind us, and now it's time for the the college basketball season, that occurs during the actual cold dark winter. There are a number of storylines to look at for the Mountaineers this season. There was a large turnover in the roster, there are only 2 seniors on the roster and will Deniz Kilicli be able to improve to his junior year the way that he had from his freshman to sophomore year.
Last year West Virginia was a very veteran team with 5 seniors on the roster. Naturally, with large turnover like that, many questions emerge regarding who will lead the team. It should come as no surprise that as the only seniors, Truck Bryant and Kevin Jones will need to lead the way for the Mountaineers. Bryant split many of the point guard duties with Joe Mazzula last season, but this year the streaky-shooting Bryant will have to shoulder the load himself. Last year Bryant was one of the most successful Mountaineers in terms of getting to the free throw line (150 attempts last season), but at just 33% percent from the floor (32% from beyond the arc), many teams may lay off Bryant and allow him to shoot. Decision making will be a key for Bryant this season; he led the team in turnovers-per-game last year (2.2 tpg) so that will need to improve.
Bryant will have some relief in terms of scoring. Kevin Jones is the leading rebounder from last year (7.5 rpg, 5th best in the conference). Jones was also one of the best players at controlling and taking care of the ball last year. Jones averaged just over 1 turnover per game last year, but based on the amount of time that he had the ball in his hands, his turnover rate of 9.5% per game was 15th best in the nation. Jones is a solid contributor in terms of scoring (13.1 points per game), and he will need to remain a consistent scoring threat to alleviate the pressure off the new-comers.
One freshman to keep an eye on is Gary Browne, a 6-1 guard form Puerto Rico. Scouts say that Browne is a true point guard who makes excellent decisions. He played with the Puerto Rican national team and comes from a high school program that was ranked #16 in the nation by USA Today.
Another player who could become a larger contributor is Kevin Noreen. The red-shirt freshman is coming off major knee surgery, but was the Mr. Basketball for Minnesota. He played very limited minutes in his 7 games before his knee injury, but when he was on the court he connected on 7 of 8 shots from the field. At 6-10 and 245 lbs, Noreen could become a dominant multi-faceted threat.
The first game of the season for WVU is Friday Nov. 11th at 9pm against Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles should offer good competition for the Mountaineers. They return their 4 top scorers (all double-figure scorers) including 6-6 forward Dominique Morrison, who averaged 19.5 ppg and 5 rpg last season. As long as the loss to Northern Kentucky was an aberration, expect WVU to do well this season. However, to become a consistently ranked team, Bob Huggins will need to find a third consistent scoring threat from his new players.
Here's to another exciting basketball season!