All good things must come to an end, so it was for the men’s basketball season. A Sweet 16 matchup against top seeded Gonzaga proved to the end for WVU. They gave the Bulldogs (who routed Xavier in the Elite 8) their toughest game of the tourney so far. It was close throughout, and the Mountaineers led late in the game, but could not score after a Jevon Carter 3-pointer put WVU up 58-55 with 1:48 left. Gonzaga scored six points during that period, and won 61-55.
WVU ends the year 28-9, and never lost by double digits. They had second half leads in eight of the nine losses. The last few minutes of the Gonzaga game showed of some of the flaws fans saw in the losses: missing crucial free throws, a questionable foul, the inability to run a play on offense.
But the game also showed off many of the things that made WVU a very good team this year – a great defense (this was by far Gonzaga’s worst point per possession game of the season). They forced turnovers, but also showed improved halfcourt defense. Despite the late free throws, they shot the ball better from the free throw line.
In short, it was a very good team that had a very good season. But it was also tantalizingly close to being a great season.
They lose several key pieces: Nate Adrian, Tarik Phillip, Teyvon Myers, Brandon Watkins, and James Long. But there is still much to look forward towards. Jevon Carter will be a strong candidate for preseason Big 12 Player of the Year. Elijah Macon was a much better player at the end of the season than the beginning. We saw flashes from underclassmen that are very promising. The incoming recruiting class is well regarded.
The team will need to improve. Individuals will need to get better, or at the very least, more consistent. There needs to be some schematic (or execution) improvements in late game offense. But this is a team with two Sweet 16 appearances in the last three years, and there is no reason to believe next year won’t be another. The question is: can the Mountaineers advance even farther?
Now that spring is here, the sporting world begins to turn its attention toward baseball. The Mountaineer baseball team had a tremendous finish to its season last year, but barely missed the NCAA tournament. (That snub became all too evident during the strong Big 12 showing in the tourney). This year, they hope to avoid the slow start to the season. They are 12-9 early, with some disappointing losses (losing series to Old Dominion and Tulane), but there have been solid wins (sweeping Coastal Carolina, winning a series at Baylor). They have played just three games at home, so the record isn’t bad, but they will need a strong conference showing to solidify their tournament chances.