As TV character Jethro Bodine once famously said, I may not know new math, but I sure know how to cipher. (Jed Clampett in reply: “If brains was lard, Jethro couldn’t grease a pan.”)
So I put pen to paper and exercised my “goes intos” regarding this WVU men’s basketball team.
While the Mountaineers, now ranked No. 14 in both polls, can be so good, they can also be as tough to figure as abstract algebra – especially on the road. After the latest road loss, this one at Oklahoma, coach Bob Huggins unloaded on his young team. “Have you heard about youthful exuberance?” he asked. “Did you see any exuberance?”
Yet exuberance aside, what’s happening on the road?
I sorted through some statistics.
What I found are many stats I believed to be telltales are indeed not.
Like steals. I figured when WVU’s players are, well, exuberant, they’d be more active on defense. But the Mountaineers are averaging 8 steals a game — on the dot, tied for 45thnationally. In victories, they are averaging 8. In losses, they are averaging 8. So there goes that theory.
3-point shooting? In losses, West Virginia is shooting 30.1 percent. Overall, it is shooting 30.3 percent.
I hear you screaming TURNOVERS! But, nope. In losses, WVU is averaging 15.6. Overall, it averages 14.7. In wins, it’s 14.3. So toss another miscue on the pile and there ya go.
OK, Mitch, but what about personal fouls – and the officiating? Again, not really. In losses, the Mountaineers are averaging 21.6 fouls. Overall, the number is 19.1 a game. In wins, the average is 18.4. So there’s a difference of three, but…
Even in regard to free throw accuracy, WVU is what it is: 63.8 percent in losses and 64.3 overall.
It simply boils down to – and you’re going to be so disappointed in this – WVU’s overall offense and defense.
We know when the Mountaineers are clicking defensively, they are almost unstoppable. Anaconda-like. In field goal percentage defense, they stand No. 3 nationally at 37 percent. In scoring defense, they are No. 19, allowing but an average of 61.7 points.
In defeat, though, WVU allows an average of 74.4 points. There’s a significant gap for you. And – get this – in victories, the Mountaineers are allowing an average of 58.1 points. That would place West Virginia No. 5 nationally right above Baylor, the top team in the polls.
Of course, the Mountaineers have struggled offensively all season and currently sit No. 131 in scoring offense, averaging 72.8 points.
In losses, though, WVU averages but 65.8 points. Again, a significant gap. Also, the Mountaineers average 74.7 points in victories – an even more significant gap.
So there’s your deep analysis for the day.
If you want an indicator of how West Virginia will fare in any particular game, check the scoreboard.
+ + +
Many, many moons ago, yours truly worked in Pittsburgh and got to know high school writer extraordinaire Mike White of the Post-Gazette.
Recently, he put forth an article that may cause concern for WVU football fans. As White has chronicled, the number of major-college football recruits in Western Pennsylvania has been dwindling.
Then last week he reported only six players from the WPIAL or City League signed with Power 5 conference colleges.
Not good news for WVU – or Pitt, Penn State, etc. – that has long relied on the territory to fortify its roster.
+ + +
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.