99 in 99: #27 West Virginia Mountaineers

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West Virginia cheerleaders

2009-2010 was a memorable season for West Virginia.  They used their tough nosed defense and ferocity on the glass to win the Big East Tournament and then make a run to the Final Four.  The Mountaineers have some big shoes to fill in losing three valuable starters, but with Bob Huggins calling the shots, this team will have not a major fall-off.

The Sports Bank’s 99 team college basketball preview in 99 days ranks the 72 power conference teams and top 27 mid-majors.  Click here if you missed teams #28-#99.

By: David Kay

West Virginia Mountaineers (T-2nd, 13-5 in Big East, 31-7 overall)

Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Deniz Kilicli (So)/Cam Thoroughman (Sr)
F: Kevin Jones (Jr)/Dan Jennings (So)
F: John Flowers (Sr)/Kevin Noreen (Fr)/Darrious Curry (Fr-out for season)
SG: Truck Bryant (Jr)/Casey Mitchell (Sr)/Dalton Pepper (So)/Jonnie West (Sr)
PG: Joe Mazzulla (Sr)/Noah Cottrill (Fr)

Gone: G/F-De’Sean Butler, F- Devin Ebanks, F/C-Wellington Smith

De'Sean Butler Final Four

2010-2011 Outlook:

A tremendous season and tourney run came crashing down in an almost symbolic fashion when De’sean Butler tore his ACL against Duke in the Final Four.  Now the Mountaineers face the task of replacing Mr. Big Shot as well as starters Wellington Smith and Devin Ebanks who chose to leave school early for the NBA Draft.

In the past couple of seasons, Bob Huggins has used West Virginia’s length, athleticism, and the versatility of his student athletes to play multiple positions to cause match-up issues on both ends of the floor.  This year, the Mountaineers will have a more basic look.

Huggins will rely on the veteran backcourt of Joe Mazzulla and Truck Bryant to run the show.  Mazzulla is a savvy point guard who is known more for his defensive abilities and basketball IQ.  He is not a scorer or a shooter but is still an invaluable presence on the floor due to his leadership and experience.

Bryant is more offensive minded and will need to become a more consistent scorer.  Long distance bombers Casey Mitchell and Dalton Pepper will provide depth at the two.  Mitchell struggled acclimating himself to the Division One level last season and was temporarily suspended this Fall after violating team rules but has recently been re-instated to the team.  Freshman Noah Cottrill should immediately see minutes as the back-up point guard.

Junior Kevin Jones is expected to make a leap this season and replace Butler as the team’s go-to scorer.  He will likely be joined in the frontcourt by Andre 3000 look-alike John Flowers who fell out favor during last season seeing a decrease in his minutes and productivity.

Deniz Kilicli is more a true center who can bang down low as opposed to Smith who would stretch defenses with this three-point shooting.  Freshman Kevin Noreen will likely contribute right away while Cam Thoroughman, aka Johnny Hustle, and the physical Dan Jennings will compete for minutes off the bench.  Freshman Darrious Curry would have been in the picture as well but he will not play this season due to a heart condition, putting his basketball future in jeopardy.

This will not be the West Virginia teams of year’s past.  Defensively, they just do not have the same type of athletes they have possessed in year’s past.  But you better believe the Bob Huggins will have his team working hard on both ends of the floor and in the thick of the Big East race.

Kevin Jones West VirginiaPlayer to Watch: Kevin Jones, F
The 6-8 Jones made solid strides in his sophomore season and will be asked to take on an even bigger role this season.  He is the team’s top returning scorer, rebounder, and three-point shooter and will have to pick up some of the scoring void left behind by Butler who was the heart and sole of the team last year.  Plus, he is member of all my All-Headband team.

Key Non-Conference Games:
11/18 vs. Davidson (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)
11/19 vs. Vanderbilt/Nebraska (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)
11/21 vs. North Carolina/Minnesota/Western Kentucky/Hofstra (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)
12/4 at Miami, FL
1/16 vs. Purdue

Other 99 in 99’s:
#28 BYU
#29 Georgia
#30 St. John’s
#31 N.C. State
#32 Florida State
#33 Marquette
#34 Temple
#35 Vanderbilt
#36 Arizona
#37 Murray State
#38 Dayton
#39 Notre Dame
#40 Mississippi State
#41 Utah State
#42 Maryland
#43 Richmond
#44 UNLV
#45 Seton Hall
#46 Wichita State
#47 Washington State
#48 St. Louis
#49 Old Dominion
#50 Minnesota
#51 New Mexico
#52 UConn
#53 Northwestern
#54 UCLA
#55 Southern Mississippi
#56 St. Mary’s
#57 Texas A&M
#58 Louisville
#59 Arizona State
#60 Northern Iowa
#61 Creighton
#62 Clemson
#63 Cincinnati
#64 Texas Tech
#65 Miami, FL
#66 Charlotte
#67 UTEP
#68 Ole Miss
#69 George Mason
#70 Colorado
#71 Weber State
#72 Alabama
#73 Bradley
#74 Central Florida
#75 Wake Forest
#76 Georgia Tech
#77 USC
#78 Oklahoma State
#79 Cal
#80 Oklahoma
#81 Virginia
#82 South Carolina
#83 Indiana
#84 Stanford
#85 Oregon
#86 Penn State
#87 South Florida
#88 Arkansas
#89 Boston College
#90 LSU
#91 Providence
#92 Michigan
#93 Oregon State
#94. Nebraska
#95. Auburn
#96. DePaul
#97. Iowa State
#98. Rutgers
#99. Iowa

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