\ Kevin Kinder

SCOUT: West Virginia Mountaineers - VMI Keydets

West Virginia plays its second consecutive Southern Conference member when VMI marches to Morgantown to face the Mountaineers on Saturday afternoon.


Senior guard QJ Peterson (6-0, 190 lbs.) leads a height-challenged VMI lineup with 20.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. A preseason all-conference pick, Peterson has 87 career starts in 90 games for the Keydets, and led the league a year ago with a 19.8 points per game average. With no starter or major minutes contributor standing taller than 6-6, the Keydets will need to shoot well and protect the ball, as they figure to get few second chances on offense. They'll also be subjected to WVU's attacking style on the offensive glass.

Helping Peterson is fellow guard Julian Eleby (6-3, 190 lbs.) who scores at a 13 points per game clip. Forward Trey Chapman (6-6 205 lbs.) is also an overall contributor with 10.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. All three are seniors, and are hoping to steady VMI after their rough start to the season.

VMI has not been going very deep on its bench, and has gotten no more than minimal support from any non-starter other than Keith Smith, who has averaged 5.0 points per game in twenty minutes of action per outing. Starter Fred Iruafemi (6-6, 205 lbs.) leads the team with 16 blocks, serving as the Keydets' interior defensive stalwart.

That last, though, is one of the few highlights for VMI when it doesn't have the ball. Opponents are shooting an even 50% from the field, which explains why foes have taken 65 fewer shots than the Keydets, and have just 58 offensive rebounds. For VMI to break out of its early season losing trend, it must get than number down at least a few percentage points.


VMI held the opponent record for most turnovers by a WVU opponent (36 in 2014) before that record was broken by Manhattan on Nov. 28. WVU's current players, who only semi-jokingly say they are aiming to force 50 in a game this year, might view this game as a likely target, but there is a bit of danger there, and not just due to the fact that VMI is averaging just 13 per game so far.

Not danger in terms of losing the game, of course, but danger in getting away from those behaviors that force turnovers, and instead concentrating on the stats rather than the play. It's similar to a power hitter in baseball trying to hit home runs – as soon as the focus shifts to the end result rather than to the fundamentals (meeting the ball squarely, not overswinging, etc.) the homers disappear. Thus, it's important for West Virginia to play each possession with an eye toward executing the basics. If they do that, the results will come – although 50 turnovers seems to be a bit of a high goal.

WVU (6-1) vs. VMI 1-6 Sat Dec 10 2:00 PM EST
WVU Coliseum Morgantown, WV Series: WVU 44-5
RPI: WVU - 55 VMI - 347 TV: ROOT Sirius/XM: 136X / 199

Outside of this, a continued look at West Virginia's evolving rotation should be an item to watch. The top four guards (Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles, Tarik Phillip and Teyvon Myers) seem to be settled in, with Esa Ahmad also available to swing to the backcourt if necessary. Ahmad, Nathan Adrian and Lamont West have been excellent on the wings, while Elijah Macon, Brandon Watkins and Sagaba Konate have gobbled up most of the interior minutes. That doesn't leave much room, although head coach Bob Huggins noted that he would like to have one more guard press his case. Whether that's James Long or Chase Harler, the one that provides another outside shooting threat while holding his own on defense can carve a supporting role.


WVU and VMI may have met in more neutral site locations than any other pairing on the Mountaineer historical slate. While many of there were in the Mountain State, they did come away from West Virginia's Fieldhouse and Coliseum. Of the 49 previous meetings, 22 were on neutral courts. In-state locations included Charleston, Beckley, Huntington, Williamson and Bluefield. The schools also met in Southern conference tournaments in Richmond, Va. and Charlotte, N.C.

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WVU dropped nine spots in the RPI despite its blowout win over Western Carolina. A similar decrease can be expected following this game, as the Keydets stand just four spots from the bottom of the current index.

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Current VMI athletic director Dave Diles, Jr. is the son of broadcaster Dave Diles. For those of us of a certain age, Diles was the go-to guy for college football updates. In the days before the Internet, smart phones and 500 TV channels, Diles was the host of the Prudential College Football Scoreboard – one of the very few resources for a comprehensive roundup of Saturday action. I can still remember the old tote board showing the scores of games as the set's backdrop, and the excitement you'd get when spotting WVU's score.

Yep, I'm old.

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After shooting better than 90% from the line last year, Peterson is hitting just 70.7% this season.

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