West Virginia tips off its 2021-22 season when it hosts Oakland in Morgantown, W.Va., on Tuesday evening.
Based on the consensus among national media members, Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers are expected to place in the middle of the pack in a stacked Big 12. Fresh off a two-year contract extension signed in the offseason, the 68-year-old Huggins is entering his 40th season as a head coach, and he has taken WVU to the NCAA Tournament in 10 of his 14 years at the school.
The Mountaineers finished last season 19-10, advancing to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. But they are replacing leading scorers Miles McBride and Derek Culver, as well as starting small forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. and backup point guard Jordan McCabe. Guards Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil are back, however, after combining for 25.6 points per game in 2020-21.
The roster may have changed, but Huggins is optimistic the team won’t have any problems scoring.
“I think we can make shots,” said Huggins at Big 12 media day. “I don’t know if we can guard anybody and keep them from making shots, but we can make shots. We have three of four guys that can surround the line and shoot it extremely well.”
Meanwhile, Oakland head coach Greg Kampe has the luxury of being able to rely on a preseason first-team, all-Horizon League player in junior point guard Jalen Moore, who had the second-best assist rate in the country last season (45.9 percent). He’s also someone who isn’t afraid to shoot, making him as valuable as any mid-major player to his team. But he’s not alone.
The Golden Grizzlies are returning 62 percent of their scoring from last season, including starters Trey Townsend and Micah Parrish to go along with Moore and Marquette transfer Jamal Cain, who has a shot to play at the next level.
“We have a history of being able to take high-major players and featuring them in our offense, and that’s what we’re going to do with Jamal,” said Kampe. “I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t average 20 points per game and maybe 10 rebounds per game, and just put up fantastic numbers because he’s very talented.”
Oakland may have gone just 12-18 overall and 10-10 in conference play last season, but Kampe has high expectations entering his 38th year at the school. He is the third-longest tenured Division-I men’s hoops coach at a single school, behind only Jim Boeheim (45 seasons at Syracuse) and Mike Krzyzewski, who will be coaching his 41st and final season at Duke.
–Field Level Media