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Previewing West Virginia

West Virginia Scouting Report
Season Stats (pdf)

West Virginia Offense 05-06Four FactorsPercentNat'l RankeFG%53.332Turnover Rate13.22Off Reb Rate21.3332FTM/FGA17.5331West Virginia Offense 06-07Four FactorsPercentNat'l RankeFG%51.1132Turnover Rate18.633Off Reb Rate28.2262FTM/FGA19.4274

I don't think I need to go into much detail here. You know all about the strengths and weaknesses of this kind of offense; you've watched it firsthand for the last five years. West Virginia has had to replace a lot of pieces (there are eight freshmen on the 2007 roster), and the Mountaineers offense has regressed significantly from last season to this one. They averaged about 1.17 points/possession in 2006 (12th in the nation) but are only averaging 1.04 pts/possession (115th nationally) in 2007. Whereas the bulk of the team's possessions went to several very efficient players in 2006...

 Player %Poss ORtg %Shots eFG%
1) Pittsnoggle 25.0 113.4 28.9 57.0
2) Gansey 22.1 123.8 23.5 65.1
3) Herber 20.4 106.4 18.2 46.1
...they're going to guys who've struggled in 2007...
 Player %Poss ORtg %Shots eFG%
1) Alexander 27.3 96.8 29.1 54.4
2) Young 24.3 97.6 28.6 46.2
3) Butler 23.9 93.0 24.2 54.3
The team is still firing away from downtown, though. One out of every two field goal attempts is a three-pointer.


Darris Nichols (6-2, 190) -- Has the third-best offensive rating in the country (149.8), thanks to a 70.5 effective field goal percentage and a fabulously low turnover rate (10.3%). But although Nichols leads the team in minutes played and points per game, he's not a primary scoring option--both his usage and %Shots are around 15%. It's that light usage which helps him maintain such excellent, he's shooting waaaay over his head. The only starter with a decent free throw rate. Sports a lovely 4.8:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Frank Young (6-5, 215) -- Along with Nichols, Young is the only current Mountaineer starter to see any serious playing time last season. His usage is up considerably--from 17.8% in 2006 to 24.3% this season--and his efficiency has taken a dive because of it. He's only shooting 46.2% and is totally perimeter-oriented, so he never gets to the line. He leads the team in 3FGA, but is only 13-41 (31.7%). Like most of his teammates, he maintains a low turnover percentage. As you can tell from the %Poss numbers I listed above, Young is one of the guys WVU will lean on.

Alex Ruoff (6-6, 210) -- Perimeter-oriented: has 33 three-point attempts and 13 two-point attempts this season. Struggling from outside (30.3%) and has the lowest eFG% among the starters. Ranks 10th nationally in steal percentage, so he'll pick yer pocket.

Joe Alexander (6-8, 200) -- His usage and %Shots numbers suggest he is the go-to guy, but he's only getting about 23 minutes per game. Is a threat to both block shots and steal the ball, and of course, he'll shoot from outside.

Rob Summers (7-0, 240) -- Excellent shooting percentage (70.6%), but he's a small part of the offense. The best shot-blocker on the team. Terrible defensive rebounder, possesses a lame free throw rate for a guy his size.


Da'Sean Butler (6-7, 205) has been Beilein's sixth man this season, and he'll play as much as Summers and Alexander will. Young, Alexander, and Butler combine to use 75.5% of the possessions and take 81.9% of the shots when they're on the court, which doesn't leave much for the other two guys.

Jamie Smalligan (7-0, 255), Devan Bawinkel (6-5, 185), Joe Mazzulla (6-2, 180), and Wellington Smith (6-7, 195) will also get some time (they average 5-16 mins per game), just don't expect them to contribute much. Smalligan appears to be a three-point specialist despite his size: 15 of his 23 field goal attempts on the season have been threes.

It's a bench light on experience: Smalligan is a junior, the rest are freshmen.

West Virginia Defense 05-06Four FactorsPercentNat'l RankeFG%51.2239Turnover Rate24.526Off Reb Rate36.9313FTA/FGA20.81West Virginia Defense 06-07Four FactorsPercentNat'l RankeFG%46.790Turnover Rate34.01Off Reb Rate34.8239FTA/FGA31.186

That turnover rate sure is an eye-opener. On the season, WVU opponents are averaging 23 turnovers per game; WVU, on the other hand, averages 11. That's a massive advantage, particularly in the low-possession games that West Virginia likes to play. They won't continue to force turnovers at their current pace--that's ridiculous--but last year's TO% shows that their ability to force a lot of mistakes is no early-season fluke. This is a huge key to the game. WVU's FG% defense is nothing special, and neither is its defensive rebounding. You take care of the ball against the Mountaineers and you're liable to have a nice day at the offensive end because you're forcing them to stop you with their weaknesses.

As a team, West Virginia leads the nation in steal percentage. That frightens me. However, NC State's offense is only turning the ball over 17.6% of its possessions this season, so we at least have the comfort of knowing that hanging onto the ball is one of the things we do well.

We should look to test the Mountaineers' interior defense (while being mindful of that Summers fellow; we don't want him going Petway on us): they're allowing opponents to shoot 51.8% from inside the arc, which ranks 247th nationally. So far in 2007 we've been one of the best two-point shooting teams in the nation (59.1%, which ranks 10th).