Coming off a Sweet 16 season, WVU has promise and potential. But injuries have hurt depth as it tries to fit players into positions.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia is in an infinitely better position now than it was at any time over the last five preseasons. But with Beetle Bolden's ACL tear, Nate Adrian returning from wrist surgery and a nagging back issue for Elijah Macon, the team is still trying to piece together rotations and who will play where.

That is, off course, exactly what you'd expect this early in the preseason. WVU fully expected to have Bolden, who averaged 10.7 points during the three games in the Bahamas, available for the season to get Jevon Carter additional minutes off the ball. Now, Carrer is likely to move back to point and share duties with Tarik Phillip and, perhaps, Teyvon Myers if the junior college transfer can grasp concepts quickly enough. Above, head coach Bob Huggins details the one throough five spots on the floor, who best fits here, and delves into topics like scheduling, NCAA rule changes, changes in the pressure and press for this season, the play of Esa Ahmad and more.

Some highlights:

  • West Virginia had 10 days of practice in August, followed by a three-game trip to the Bahamas, where the team blew out every overmatched foe it faced – then had their promising young point guard blow an ACL. “It was great for Esa and Beetle, then Beetle got hurt,” Huggins said. “Beetle played really well in the Bahamas. I think we came in thinking J.C. or Tarik were going to be the point guard, then Beetle played well. I think the thing we worried about was the physicality of college basketball and him not being but 160 pounds. It hurts us probably. But I think in the long run it might not be a bad thing for him to have another year.”

  • Carter seemed to be affected by switching between the one and two slots when he was inserted at the point late in the year when both Juwan Staten and Gary Browne were out with injuries. It affected his shot, and Huggins said the pair had a discussion about that aspect, and that shouldn’t hinder Carter as much as it did last year. The sophomore has had a full offseason of development, along with the added practices and road trip, and appears far more comfortable now than he was last season.

  • Huggins said he thought the team could still do everything it did last season in terms of offense and defense without Staten, Browne and now Bolden, but that the Mountaineers – who were often in foul trouble and accused by some Big 12 schools as plaguing their sensibilities of style – would “have to be smarter. Our angles sometimes weren’t very good,” Huggins said. “We made some dumb, careless fouls. I think we can change the pressure in some ways. We have to do a better job of being more cognizant of not getting in foul trouble. We fouled in traps, which you should never do. I don’t know that we can put as much pressure on the inbounds as we did.”

  • Ahmad, a highly-touted Scout.com four-star recruit, could play anywhere from the two to the four spots, the former being a bit of a surprise because of his 6-8, 225-pound frame. “He guarded a bigger guy in high school, but I think he is capable of guarding on the perimeter,” Huggins said. “I think when I got here and I started talking about playing Da’Sean (Butler) at two, everybody said ‘Da’Sean at two?’ But Da’Sean ended up being a pretty good shooting guard. I think he is like Da was. We could play Da at four, we could play him at one for a while.”

  • The Big 12 is expected to have two – and perhaps three – teams ranked among the nation’s top 10 at the start of the season, in Kansas, Iowa State and Oklahoma, along with at least West Virginia and Baylor in the Top 25. That’s half the 10-team league. Add in Texas and Oklahoma State as Top 40 threats, along with nonconference foes like Virginia and potentially Cal, and the Mountaineers are looking at a schedule with at least seven games against preseason top 10 foes and as many as 14-16 versus Top 25 teams. “We’ve always played a competitive schedule,” Huggins said. “It’s great if you win, but you gotta win those games. There was a time last season when we had nine of our 10 teams ranked. That’s 90 percent. That’s never happened before. Sixty percent of our coaches have coached in Final Fours. We’ve had the second most NBA Draft picks, the second most lottery picks, and we have 10 teams. Those other leagues have 16.”


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