If you want to get the real skinny on a basketball team, you don’t rely solely on statistics or press conferences.
You go to those who have coached against the team. You go to those that have played against the team.
Then you go off the record.
And with so many WVU men’s basketball fans holding their collective breath awaiting the upcoming NCAA tournament, I decided to do just that.
Could Friday night’s 9:50 p.m. game against 14th seed Morehead State provide another upset of the Mountaineers, like that against Stephen F. Austin at the Barclay Center in 2016? Well, I’ll certainly never forget that because I was covering the game courtside and saw the bearded Thomas Walkup pour in 33 points for the Lumberjacks.
No. 3 seed WVU’s opponent Morehead State, though, has a completely different makeup. The Eagles are led by 6-10, 235-pound Johnni Broome, a freshman from Florida who averages 13.9 points and nine rebounds. Guards DeVon Cooper (12.2 points) and Skyelar Potter (11.8) are next. The Ohio Valley Conference team is 23-7.
So, what’s the real scoop on the Eagles? Well, first understand they’ve been blown out by Kentucky (81-45), Richmond (82-64) and Ohio State (77-44). Clemson beat them by 15. But those games were in November and December. They recently won the OVC tournament and are on a 7-game winning streak.
Here’s the real scouting report on the Eagles, though, taken off the record from former opponents.
“Within their conference, the Eagles are physical,” said one. “They are a half-court team. They want to play a low-possession game and grind it out.
“It’s a lot like with Virginia. Play offense on defense. Don’t take quick shots. (The Eagles) use the shot clock.”
Morehead State will try to take away WVU’s strengths. The team will try to guard the 3-point line without fouling.
The problem for the Eagles?
“Morehead doesn’t have a lot of depth,” said another. “The Eagles will play eight guys, but when you peel back the onion only six are players. The others are sprinkled in.”
“It’s going to be hard for them to physically impose their will on West Virginia,” summed up one source. “The Mountaineers are physical, big and strong.”
As mentioned, on offense Broome is averaging double digits.
“He was tremendous in OVC play,” said a source. “But in the OVC if you’re 6-8 you can play the five (center) position. Broome, at 6-10, was able to get to his spots. Not a big league.
“It will be interesting to see how he does when WVU pushes him off the block, when the Mountaineers are really physical with him.”
Of course, WVU’s Derek Culver will be in charge there.
Also in regard to Morehead’s offense, one source pointed to Potter.
“He’s the X factor guy,” said a source. “He’s 6-2 and super athletic. He’s strong and can get his own shot. He’s a guy you can give the ball at the end of the shot clock. He can raise up and get a three. Athletically, he’ll belong in the game. He looks like a Big 12 basketball player.”
Yes, WVU has had troubles on defense. But one of those interviewed believes the Mountaineers will fare better on Friday, especially since Morehead averages 15.3 turnovers a game.
“WVU will do a good job guarding this team, which tends to go in slumps offensively,” said the source. “They’ll go three or four minutes without making a shot. They’ll turn the ball over.
“If WVU is moving the ball and able to get it inside, the Mountaineers can go on some big runs during those droughts.”
“If WVU converts after turning over Morehead, (the Mountaineers) could run it up pretty quick. Just a tough matchup for Morehead.”
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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.