Last season the West Virginia men’s basketball team struggled to find an offensive identity in its first-ever campaign in the Big 12.
The Mountaineers scored just 66.1 points per game, 209th in the nation, while recording their second-lowest 3-point shooting percentage as a team in the last 15 years.
The lowest came only a year earlier, so it’s safe to say it’s been a couple consecutive down years for the 3-point shot in Morgantown.
But with the departures of post players like Deniz Kilicli, Aaric Murray and Dominique Rutledge, and with the eligibility issues of current forwards Elijah Macon and Jonathan Holton, the Mountaineers’ inside offensive game could be next to nonexistent in 2013-14.
This should also result in more long-range attempts for the Mountaineers this season, by sheer necessity if nothing else.
Fortunately, West Virginia may actually have the personnel to turn what’s been one of its more glaring weaknesses over the last two years into a potential weapon this season.
The Mountaineers will be led from the perimeter by returning marksmen Eron Harris and Terry Henderson, both true sophomores, who were WVU’s top two long-range shooters at 35 and 40 percent in the 2012-13 season. Harris and Henderson are also WVU’s top two returning scorers.
Joining them this season are two freshmen basketball products from the state of West Virginia: Morgantown High School’s Nathan Adrian and preferred walk-on Chase Connor from Shady Spring. Both are obviously unproven at the collegiate level but have displayed a major aptitude for the 3-point shot in practice and as high school players.
From a coaching standpoint, head coach Bob Huggins also seems to be heading into this season more willing to let the 3-pointers fly, too.
Much of his preseason commentary has included how pleased he’s been with how well his potential long-range threats have shot the ball from the perimeter in practice, and despite the fact Huggins’ teams have almost always historically been based on a foundation of great defense and strong rebounding, by just looking at the players Huggins will have at his disposal this season it appears this team is simply more geared toward scoring from long distance.
Obviously Huggins’ won’t stray too far from the core principles that have made him one of college basketball’s most successful coaches, but again, he also appears more eager to rely on shooting 3’s heading into this season.
The only problem is the Mountaineers haven’t shot the ball well in their limited opportunities outside of the team’s new $24 million practice facility.
To be fair, there have only been two occasions where Huggins has seen this team play outside of that facility. One was an inter-squad scrimmage, the Gold-Blue Debut, at the WVU Coliseum a couple weeks ago, and the other was a closed scrimmage against Ohio State on the Buckeyes’ home floor last week.
We should ultimately get an accurate depiction of WVU’s shooting prowess as this year’s Mountaineer team officially takes the floor for the first time completely together in public, in its first open scrimmage of the preseason tonight against Fairmont State at the WVU Coliseum.
It’s quite feasible this exhibition could actually end up being a more accurate showcase of things to come than usual.