#46 West Virginia Mountaineers: College Basketball 111 in 111

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Welcome to The Sports Bank’s second annual college basketball season preview series.  Last year we looked at 99 teams in 99 days.  This year, we are being slightly more aggressive and expanding to 111 teams in 111 days.  We will rank the 74 power conference teams and top 37 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order.  We’ll break down rosters, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.

With only three players back from last season and seven newcomers joining the fray, Bob Huggins and the West Virginia Mountaineers will experience their share of growing pains this season. As is the case with any Huggins’ coached team, WVU will be competitive due to their hard nosed style of play.  However, I am not sure it will be enough to get the Mountaineers back to the NCAA Tournament.

WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS
Last Season: T-6th, 11-7 in Big East, 21-12 overall
Predicted Big East Finish: 9th

Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Deniz Kilicli (Jr)/Pat Forsythe (Fr)
F: Kevin Jones (Sr)/Kevin Noreen (Fr)/Dominic Rutledge (Jr)
G/F: Aaron Brown (Fr)/Tommie McCune (Fr)/Keaton Miles (Fr)
G: Truck Bryant (Sr)
PG: Jabarie Hinds (Fr)/Gary Browne (Fr)

Gone: SG-Casey Mitchell, F-John Flowers, PG-Joe Mazzulla, F/C-Cam Thoroughman, G-Jonnie West, SG-Dalton Pepper (transfer-Temple), F/C-Dan Jennings (transfer-Long Beach State), PG-Noah Cottrill (transfer)

2011-2012 Outlook:
The Mountaineers avoided taking an even bigger hit this off-season when Kevin Jones decided to withdraw his name from the NBA Draft and return for his senior season.  Jones was expected to take a big leap last season but failed to do so as he really struggled with his outside shot.  He will have to bounce back from a somewhat disappointing junior year and play a major role for West Virginia this season.

Big man Deniz Kilicli is also back to provide some size in the middle.  He showed improvement as a sophomore but must take on an even bigger role this season so expect to see more of his patented old school hook shot that might be one of the ugliest things in college basketball.

Inexperience kicks in behind Jones and Kilcli in the frontcourt.  Redshirt freshman Kevin Noreen, junior college transfer Dominic Rutledge, and freshmen Aaron Brown, Tommy McCune, and Keaton Miles will all compete for the other starting frontcourt spot.  Noreen and Rutledge offer more size and would give Huggins a bigger, more physical look with Jones sliding to the small forward spot.  Brown, McCune, and Miles are all combo forwards who bring a little more athleticism and versatility to the table; and usually a favorite of Huggins.

Backcourt depth will be a concern for West Virginia as Truck Bryant is the only experienced player returning.  He can fill it up when he gets the hot hand but is also a very streaky shooter who too often becomes a non-factor when he has an off night.  Bryant will likely play off the ball a lot this season and be joined in the starting backcourt by point guard Jabarie Hinds.  He is considered the best of the Mountaineers incoming class and relies on his quickness and ability to get to the basket which could present issues having to drive the lane against taller defenders.  Combo guard Gary Browne is the only backcourt reserve and will give WVU a shooter off the bench.

The Mountaineers picked up a pair of key transfers this off-season in LaSalle big man Aaric Murray and Dayton point guard Juwan Staten.  Both players must sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules but will make major impacts in 2012-2013.

This is the most inexperienced group Huggins has coached since arriving in Morgantown in 2007.  Expect there to be plenty of bumps along the way, but a .500 mark in the Big East is not out of the question and usually enough to get a team into the NCAA Tournament; a feat Huggins has accomplished all four years at West Virginia.

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Player to Watch: Kevin Jones
Which Kevin Jones will show up this year? The one who shot better than 40% from three as a sophomore or the one who barely hit the 30% clip during his junior season?  West Virginia needs the former if they want to finish in the upper half of the conference standings especially since their only other experienced outside shooter, Truck Bryant is just as streaky.

Key Non-Conference Games:
11/15 vs. Kent State
11/22 vs. Morehead State
12/3 at Mississippi State (Big East/SEC Challenge)
12/8 at Kansas State
12/10 vs. Miami, FL
12/23 vs. Baylor (Las Vegas Invitational)
1/18 vs. Marshall

OTHER 111 IN 111’S:
#47 Virginia Cavaliers
#48 George Mason Patriots
#49 Old Dominion Monarchs

#50 VCU Rams
#51 Kent State Golden Flashes
#52 Arkansas Razorbacks
#53 St. John’s Red Storm
#54 Northwestern Wildcats
#55 Georgetown Hoyas
#56 Miami Hurricanes
#57 Nevada Wolfpack
#58 Detroit Titans
#59 UCF Knights
#60 Long Beach State 49ers
#61 Virginia Tech Hokies
#62 Clemson Tigers
#63 New Mexico State Aggies
#64 Tennessee Volunteers
#65 Iona Gaels
#66 Murray State Racers
#67 N.C. State Wolfpack
#68 Fairfield Stags
#69 George Washingon Colonials
#70 Indiana State Sycamores
#71 Oklahoma State Cowboys
#72 Indiana Hoosiers
#73 UAB Blazers
#74 Iowa State Cyclones
#75 Creighton Bluejays
#76 USC Trojans
#77 Weber State Wildcats
#78 Maryland Terrapins
#79 Tulsa Golden Hurricane
#80 Minnesota Golden Gophers
#81 Western Michigan Broncos
#82 Dayton Flyers
#83 Stanford Cardinal
#84 Yale Bulldogs

#85 Georgia Bulldogs
#86 Rutgers Scarlet Knights
#87 Richmond Spiders
#88 Ball State Cardinals
#89 Utah State Aggies
#90 Arizona State Sun Devils
#91 Marshall Thundering Herd
#92 Oregon State Beavers
#93 Washington State Cougars
#94 Iowa Hawkeyes
#95 Ole Miss Rebels
#96 Nebraska Cornhuskers
#97 Oklahoma Sooners
#98 South Florida Bulls
#99 LSU Tigers
#100 Colorado Buffaloes
#101 DePaul Blue Demons
#102 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
#103 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
#104 Seton Hall Pirates
#105 Providence Friars
#106 Auburn Tigers
#107 South Carolina Gamecocks
#108 Texas Tech Red Raiders
#109 Penn State Nittany Lions
#110 Boston College Eagles
#111 Utah Utes

David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.

You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.

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