Securing an NCAA Tournament bid down the stretch with the help of sophomore guard Terry Henderson would have been a challenging feat in itself, but doing it without him has proved to be downright impossible for the West Virginia men’s basketball team.
Henderson might not necessarily be the Mountaineers’ first or even second offensive option on a regular basis, but he’s easily their third (after Staten and Harris) and has proven to be a much more versatile and reliable scoring threat than Nathan Adrian, Remi Dibo or Gary Browne, who have seen the big increases in playing time in the two games that Henderson has missed.
Henderson’s mere presence on the court regularly creates opportunities all across the floor for his teammates by spacing and spreading out the defense. Without him, opposing teams have been able to focus in on Staten more and throw double-teams at WVU’s primary perimeter threat, Harris.
Henderson also isn’t exactly known for his defensive prowess, but I think it’s fairly evident his absence has affected them on that end of the floor, as well. I think part of this stems from the fact that when Browne isn’t on the floor, either Adrian or Dibo ends up matched up on the man Henderson would likely have been guarding.
Just look at the difference between the two Iowa State games – the first when Henderson played, and the second Wednesday night when he didn’t. The Cyclones were a stagnating 4-23 from behind the arc in Morgantown, and then turned around and made nearly 50 percent of their long range attempts Wednesday night with Henderson out sick.
Obviously other factors, like the fact that Iowa State played the second game on their home floor, could have had a positive effect on their shooting, but if you’ve watched the Mountaineers’ defensive rotations the last two games without Henderson, you’ve surely seen that things just aren’t clicking the same on that end.
Another intriguing aspect of this ordeal is just how long Henderson may have been battling this illness, which has been unofficially diagnosed as mononucleosis. As anyone that’s familiar with the affliction knows, mono is not something that just hits you overnight.
In many ways, it would explain some of the uncharacteristic performances Henderson has had since Big 12 play began. Starting about a month ago, Henderson turned in three performances in the span of about two weeks when he shot 1-8 with two points against Kansas State, 1-10 with eight points against Oklahoma State and 0-3 with two points against Kansas.
West Virginia was 0-3 in those games and is 0-2 since Henderson was initially ruled out because of illness, demonstrating just how vital the sophomore guard is in helping WVU reach its full potential.
But even though an NCAA Tournament bid is all but out of the picture for the Mountaineers now, they still have two regular season games left as well as the Big 12 Conference Tournament and perhaps even the NIT Tournament.
But will Henderson be around for any of it?
At this point, there are really no guarantees.
Yesterday, the Charleston Daily Mail’s Mike Casazza reported that Randy Meador, WVU’s coordinator of athletic training services, told the Daily Mail he and his staff have kept an eye on Henderson since that Kansas game Feb. 8.
Meador also said Henderson has been “sick for a while” but wouldn’t comment on Henderson’s specific ailment or if he would be able to participate in Saturday’s game against TCU.