The Hoos head to NYC for the Jimmy V Classic, to face the West Virginia Mountaineers. The Hoos have won 6 in a row, while WVU sits at 7-0. The Mountaineers will be the best team the Hoos have faced this year. Of course, the reverse is true, as WVU hasn't played anybody in KenPom's top 50 (the Hoos lone loss came at #46 GW).
Led by longtime coach Bob Huggins, the Mountaineers are almost the exact opposite of the Hoos. They are one of the fastest teams in the nation (currently 25th at nearly 75 possessions per game, while the Hoos are 348th at 64 possessions per game). They play a high pressure full-court defense that forces a ton of turnovers. WVU is tops in the country with over 31% forced turnover rate, tops in the country with a 16.6% steal rate. They are also tops in the country in 3 point defense, giving up just 22% from behind the arc.
Two of those stats are normal for WVU, as they finished last year on top of both the turnover and steal stat. However, last year they finished 274th nationally in 3 point percentage allowed (and in the past 5 years never finished higher than 78th). So, it's likely that one is a fluke this year.
WVU is a deep team, with 11 players averaging more than 10 minutes per game. Surely some of that is due to big garbage time minutes in some games, but nonetheless, they are deep. Though they will often go with 3 guards in the lineup, they are not a perimeter oriented team. In fact, they shoot 3s less often than almost anybody else in the nation.
They are led by junior big man Devin Williams, who is averaging over 18 and 10 per game. He's shooting 63% from the field. Keep in mind, though, that he shot just 44% last year and averaged just 11.6 ppg. Has he improved that much, or has he simply played against smaller teams who couldn't handle him on the inside. That shouldn't be a problem against the Hoos and the pack-line defense.
Most of the rest of the main contributors are guards, led by sophomore Daxter Miles. Like most of these guards, Miles is a combo guard who can handle the ball and get to the rim. They are also all tough man-to-man defenders, a necessity for the defense the Mountaineers play. Miles is only shooting about 25% from 3 this year, but he did make 35% last year. He's also not shooting it nearly as often as he did last year.
Miles' backcourt mates are Jevon Carter and Tarik Phillip. Phillip is, basically the PG. He's going to handle the ball the most, and he's probably the team's best passer. He also can't shoot a lick, as he's made just 15% of his 3s in his career. Carter is similar to Miles, but a year behind. He's also a better shooter, and is the only WVU player who is good from the FT line. As a team, they are under 70%, but he leads the team in FT attempts and shoots nearly 90%.
The best outside shooter on the team is senior Jaysean Paige. He averages only 15 minutes per game, but has made almost 40% of his 3s in his career. (He's a JUCO transfer, so this is just his second year at WVU. In fact, the Mountaineers have 6 JUCO guys on the team, including Phillip, Paige and starting PF Jonathon Holton.)
Holton actually began his college career in 2011 at Rhode Island (where he played with former UVA PG Billy Baron). He transferred to Palm Beach State Community College before moving to WVU. This year, he's averaging 10.3 and 7.6. He's a lanky, face-up 4 who isn't going to score much on the inside. But he's a capable jump shooter, so he fits well next to Williams. And he has quick hands and plays well in the press.
The other two guys the Hoos will see are sophomore Elijah Macon and freshman Esa Ahmad. Macon is Williams' backup but isn't as strong offensively. He's the Mountaineers best interior defender, so the Hoos may see more of him if they can control the paint. He's a foul machine, though. Ahmad is another wing, but he's 6'8". His length makes him deadly in the press and he's uber-athletic. He's a very good shot blocker and finisher. He doesn't have much offensive game in the half-court right now.
This is the game where the Hoos will miss London Perrantes, if he's still out from he appendectomy. His steady hand at the PG position is very important against the full-court pressure. Without a doubt, the Hoos have plenty of ballhandlers. Between Malcolm Brogdon, Darius Thompson, Marial Shayok and Devon Hall, there are 4 guys who can run the point.
Though they do not want to get into an up-and-down game with a Bob Huggins coached team, the Hoos certainly have the horses to run with WVU. Especially if Tony goes small with Gill and Wilkins in the frontcourt, this team has enough quickness and athleticism to run with anybody in the country. But, the Hoos' defense is coming together after a poor start to the season (which has been aided by a relaxation in the freedom of movement rules) and that will continue to be their focus.
The Mountaineers will try to get Devin Williams involved early, hoping to get Anthony Gill into foul trouble. Williams is really the only guy on WVU who can play inside against AG or Mike Tobey. Because the Mountaineers don't shoot the ball particularly well, the pack line should be able to slow down WVU's offense. The Hoos need to focus on not turning the ball over against the press, getting back on defense, and not allowing the Mountaineers to speed them up.
WVU is a good team, but they aren't quite as good as their record and ranking indicate. They haven't played a team that is as deep as the Hoos, and nobody they've played is nearly as strong offensively as the Hoos. The Hoos are 2nd in the nation in turnover rate (lowest), and if they are able to keep that up, they'll have a big edge in this game, because WVU is not a very good half-court team.