Now that the college football season has concluded for the WVU Mountaineers, fans can turn their attention to the hardwood. WVU is off to a tremendous start to the 2019 season and are looking to keep it going as its schedule becomes more difficult.
The Mountaineers won their first seven games of the year before falling to St. John’s on the road Saturday. WVU was the only unbeaten team remaining in the Big 12 Conference prior to its loss.
Coach Bob Huggins and his squad fell Saturday afternoon in an entertaining matchup. The Red Storm came out victorious in front of their fans at Madison Square Garden by a score of 70-68.
WVU committed 22 turnovers and watched the Red Storm’s Rasheen Dunn hit two go-ahead free throws with just five seconds remaining. St. John’s moved to 8-2 overall with the win.
Unfortunately, the Mountaineers cost their backers at West Virginia sportsbooks, too. WVU entered the contest as four-point betting favorites.
Despite the loss, there is still plenty to be excited about this year in Morgantown. The team has showed a lot of promise early on and its roster features several exciting players.
Four different Mountaineers average over 10 points per game with Oscar Tshiebwe and Jermaine Haley leading the way. Haley is averaging 11.1 points while scoring with amazing efficiency. The senior guard is shooting over 65% from the field, including 40% from deep.
Even though football is king, the Mountaineers basketball team should generate a lot of betting action in the Mountain State. Bettors have been taking full advantage of the online sports betting apps available in WV:
Let’s examine how the season has gone so far for WVU hoops and preview what’s to come in the next month.
Mountaineers Hoops Start Fast
WVU started the season better than most could have hoped. Although the team didn’t play anyone particularly great, starting off with a 7-0 record is always a good sign.
Among the seven victories were a few notable ones. While many won’t recognize Northern Iowa as an amazing basketball program, they are 8-1 to start the year and have been successful recently. The Panthers earned NCAA tournament wins in both 2015 and 2016.
While WVU didn’t cover the six-point spread, it did beat UNI by five. The win advanced the Mountaineers to the final of the Cancun Classic.
In the championship game, WVU faced another stern test in the Wichita State Shockers.
The Mountaineers actually entered this game as a very slight underdog. After a slow start, WVU turned it on in the second half. It outscored the Shockers 44-35 in the period and left Mexico with a 12-point win and some hardware.
Most recently, WVU won another home tilt against Rhode Island and then dropped its first game of the season at St. John’s.
Derek Culver set his career-high with 25 points while adding 11 rebounds in the Mountaineers’ close win over URI. Despite the Rams shooting 70% from three-point range, WVU escaped to grab its seventh win.
The undefeated campaign came to a close this weekend as WVU lost a nail-biter to the Red Storm. The two sides played a very even game that came down to a couple key plays.
WVU committed too many turnovers and fouls throughout the afternoon. The 22 turnovers was about nine more than its season average.
It also allowed St. John’s to get to the free-throw line too often. The Red Storm scored 22 points from the charity stripe, including 15 in the second half alone.
The last two gave St. John’s the lead for good and dropped WVU to 7-1 early on for the year. The foul was charged on Culver, but the Red Storm’s Dunn looked like he lost his footing on his way to the basket.
WVU Basketball Predictions
As the season continues, WVU’s schedule starts to get much harder. The Mountaineers have several December games that they should be able to handle with relative ease.
After taking care of Austin Peay and Nicholls, the Mountaineers face Youngstown State this weekend.
WVU beat the Austin Peay Governors with ease. It opened up an early lead and never let its foot off the gas. The Mountaineers led by 17 at the half and won by a final of 84-53.
Emmitt Matthews Jr. hit seven of nine shots and led the team with 16 points along with 10 rebounds. Tshiebwe also put up a double-double, adding 14 points and 10 boards.
Two days later, the Morgantown fans witnessed another lopsided affair against Nicholls.
The Mountaineers got off to a slow start due to some poor shooting. They only shot 24% from three, though they outrebounded the Colonels 44-27. Extra chances, as well as a strong second half, allowed WVU to pull away and win by 26.
Five Mountaineers scored in double digits and combined for the majority of the points. Culver, Matthews Jr., Tshiebwe along with Sean McNeil and Miles McBride generated 66 of the team’s 83 points.
Tshiebwe and Culver finished with double-doubles, as Culver had a great all-around performance. He added three assists and two steals to go with 16 total rebounds.
The Mountaineers have completed the first part of their schedule with flying colors. Although the competition hasn’t been the hardest, WVU has won the games it’s scheduled.
Coach Huggins has a well-rounded squad who can score in a variety of ways. This will become much more important as their opponents stiffen and defenses try to hone in on what the Mountaineers do best.
WVU Hoops Going Forward
With the holidays here, the Mountaineers’ schedule is much lighter than usual. After a full week off, they’ll take on Youngstown State on the road Saturday.
WVU will have another eight days off following this week’s game. That’s when things will get much more difficult for coach Huggins and his team.
On Dec. 29, they will host fifth-ranked Ohio State at the WVU Coliseum. This will be a great indicator of where the Mountaineers are at overall. OSU is one of the best teams in the nation and have expectations of reaching the Final Four.
The next game marks the start of Big 12 Conference play and the schedule makers didn’t do WVU any favors. It will open on the road against the top-ranked Kansas Jayhawks.
KU is constantly the class of the conference and will most likely be decent-sized favorites over the Mountaineers.
If WVU wants to compete in the Big 12 this season, then it will need some of its younger players to continue to grow.
Freshman Oscar Tshiebwe has been one of the most promising thus far. The 6’ 9” forward is starting to come into his own as he’s becoming more comfortable.
Tshiebwe is basically averaging a double-double with over 12 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game. He also is a force on the defensive end of the floor as he leads the team in blocks and averages almost a steal per contest, too.
WVU has enough talent that it can absolutely compete among the conference’s best all year. Getting off to a good start in the Big 12 will be crucial to its long-term success for the season.
If the Mountaineers can pull a couple of upsets, then it could be a quality year for the team, as well as those betting on WVU basketball. It will be a very exciting spring at WV sportsbooks if the team can qualify for this year’s March Madness.