Last season, Lionel Armstead was virtually unchallenged at the two spot. While that made for stability at the position, it also meant that Armstead logged many more minutes than the coaching staff preferred. It also paved the way for problems when Armstead missed time due to injuries and foul trouble.
This season, Armstead figures to play less, but be just as productive. The recent NCAA Clearinghouse approval of freshman guard Drew Schifino figures to provide Armstead with competition in practice and also more rest in games. This combination should contribute to an overall increase in the level of play at the two.
Last season, Armstead averaged more than 32 minutes per contest, which is over the target level that WVU likes to see from its guards.. As we discussed during our look at the point guards, getting players rest during the regular season should prove vital as tournament time approaches. The Mountaineers' backcourt ran out of gas in March last season, so having at least two players at each guard position is an immediate goal as the season approaches.
Another factor that can't be overlooked is the competition during practice. Having good players on the second unit challenges the starters and pushes them to get better or lose playing time. Over the last few seasons, the Mountaineers have lacked that vital ingredient. Again, this year's team looks to have the bodies, and the talent, to rectify that problem.
Armstead still figures to start at the two position and log the majority of minutes early on. Armstead is a streaky shooter, who, when on target, can carry a team by himself. Lionel also figures to benefit from the penetration and passing ability of freshman point guard Jonathan Hargett, who should draw some attention away from Armstead as he spots up on the perimeter. With Lionel and Josh Yeager stationed on opposite sides of the floor and Hargett driving and dishing, WVU figures to be able to mount a more effective inside out combination than they have since the days of Chris Leonard and Tracy Shelton.
True freshman Drew Schifino expects to provide a nice counterpoint to Armstead. Schifino is more of a slasher/scorer type than a spot up jump shooter, but he can hit the mid range jumper. Schifino excelled in high school at driving and getting off a variety of mid range shots and driving layups, but he will have to prove that he can do that against the trees of the Big East as well as he did against the saplings of the WPIAL.
Schifino also figures to give Armstead a run for his money defensively. While Lionel has greatly improved his defensive skills since arriving in Morgantown, Schifino's longer frame and arms give him and advantage in WVU's pressing and trapping looks.
The depth chart doesn't end with these two players. Sophomore Tobias Seldon will swing between the point and the two guard as needs require, and could end up playing a vital backup role at either spot if an injury or other absence occurs. The luxury also exists of slotting small forward Josh Yeager at the two in certain situations. Yeager started a handful of games at the two last season, and could slide to the two to give the Mountaineers a big lineup against certain opponents.
Figure on Armstead getting 20-30 minutes per game as the season wears on, depending on how quickly Schifino is able to progress, with Seldon and Yeager getting a few minutes in certain situations.
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Basketball Preview - Shooting Guards
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