WVU Shooting In Focus

West Virginia's shooting woes have been well-chronicled this year, but the focus has been on the wrong area of the court.

With an across-the-board 41% shooting average so far this season, there's no doubt that the Mountaineer basketball team has issues in that department. However, too much of the focus has been on 3-point shooting, and not enough on attempts closer to the hoop.

There's no doubt that West Virginia's shooting from distance hasn't been good. The Mountaineers fell below the 30% mark as a team after their rim-clanging performance at Northern Kentucky, so it's certainly an area to criticize. However, that's not the biggest problem with West Virginia's shooting, and it's not going to be the area that costs it games down the road.

First, note that while WVU's accuracy from three is at just 29.6%, it does have players who are shooting it well. Daxter Miles has suffered none of the usual doubts of a freshman, and is hitting 40% from outside. Jaysean Paige, displaying veteran experience, is even better at 46%. Designated shooter Chase Connor is at a solid 35%. Add in Juwan Staten, whose 31.3% isn't great, but is good enough to draw foes out on him, and West Virginia has the players to hit shots from distance. And that's not even including Jevon Carter, who has made ten this year and will again be a factor from three in some contests, and Nathan Adrian, who started off the year badly but obviously can make shots.

Overall, WVU might not shoot the lights out from downtown, but there are enough players who can (and do) make triples that it should not be a problem that arises in a majority of games this year. Even if one or two players are off the mark in a game, others should be able to pick up the slack. It's hard to imagine another game like NKU this season, where no one can throw one in the ocean from the beach.

The problem for WVU in terms of shooting is its attempts at the rim and in the lane. It's there, where shooting percentages usually rise, that the Mountaineers are falling very short. Of West Virginia's bigs, only Jonathan Holton has an acceptable rate (50% overall, 64% on 2-pointers). Everyone else has been average to poor inside, and that's the weak point that will come back to bite West Virginia if the percentages don't rise.

WVU's primary inside big, Devin Williams, has again fought to get shots away, and as attested to by his 38% success rate, hasn't improved on his ability to do so over the offseason. Nathan Adrian, forced into duty on the blocks and at the elbow with the absences of teammates, has tried just seven shots from inside the 3-point arc. That allows his defender to cheat toward Williams and Holton to provide extra help, and if Adrian isn't hitting from the outside, he simply doesn't have to be accounted for offensively. Even Staten, whose percentage has dropped from 48.6% to 41.1% this year, has had rough going in the lane.

Of course, there are some extenuating circumstances to look at. Elijah Macon, Brandon Watkins and BillyDee Williams have all missed games and action this year due to a variety of issues, and of the trio only Macon appears to be 100% physically ready to play. They have combined to go 18-49 so far (with the bulk of the attempts coming from Macon). Adrian is playing a new position, so it's not fair to hang blame on him for not being a polished back to the basket scorer. Staten is obviously getting more attention, and lingering knee issues (he gets iced after every game and practice) could be contributing to throw him off just a bit. Adrian, as noted above, is learning the ins and outs of a new position during some of his stints on the court. Those are all valid reasons that account for the lack of success in close this season, but...

...the excuses, valid as they are, don't matter. West Virginia has to find a way to capitalize on the shot attempts it gets in close. They don't even have to be made hoops, either – getting fouled and converting at the free throw line is just as good. However, that's another place where percentages are lacking. Holton, Williams, Macon, and Adrian are a combined 67-109 to date – barely topping the 61% mark. Those lost points, both from the field and at the line, will be critical in the Big 12 battles to come.

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