The notion that a point guard needs to shoot the ball more or contrive to keep it in his hands longer might be a notion more suited for the NBA than the collegiate ranks, but that is just what the Mountaineers need when faced with offensive difficulties, as it has against Notre Dame and Louisville in recent games. And it needs to come from senior point guard Darris Nichols, who has done an admirable job in most other facets of the game.
Nichols, an unassuming sort who certainly doesn't seek the limelight, has performed very well in making the transition to the Bob Huggins scheme. He runs the offense well and delivers the ball in the proper places. He has also made the cosmic shift on defense from the bottom of the 1-3-1 zone to the perimeter in man-to-man, and has worked diligently to sharpen his skills there. However, his team-first attitude has, at times, caused him to come up short on the offensive end.
Against Louisville, with the Mountaineers struggling to get the ball into the basket, Nichols was a non-factor in attacking the hoop. He took just six shots from the field, making two, and rarely drove the ball at the rim. Of course, Louisville's 2-3 zone had something to do with that, as it is designed to keep penetrators from getting into the lane, but there were times when Nichols missed chances to exploit gaps in the defense.
The same was true against Notre Dame, when Nichols scored just six points and was again seemingly passive on the offensive end. With WVU hitting just 31.9% of its shots in that contest, it needed someone to challenge the Irish defenders and get to the free throw line. However, the Mountaineers managed just 11 foul shots -- another indicator that they were not being aggressive.
Of course, this is not to say that all the blame for these losses lies at the feet of Nichols. Far from it. The Virginia native has been the key to several West Virginia wins this year. Head coach Bob Huggins has noted that as Nichols plays, so to, for the most part, do the Mountaineers. But to be more effective, and to get wins when his team isn't shooting the ball well, Nichols must look for his own shot a bit more, and drive the ball with the intention of scoring first, in order to give WVU another weapon on the offensive end.
Again, that's not to say that Nichols needs to morph into the Big East's version of Stephon Marbury or Allen Iverson. He doesn't need to hoist 20 shots per game, or cause the offense to stagnate by dominating the ball. However, he can make the Mountaineer attack more effective by taking for or five more offensive chances on his own shoulders, and he doesn't have to force them. The opportunities are there, and if he is just a bit more aggressive in taking them, West Virginia will be a better team for it.