MORGANTOWN, W.Va–The West Virginia University basketball season is coming off one of its best seasons since 2010. Last season the Mountaineers won 25 games and made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament before losing to the Kentucky Wildcats.
WVU has one goal for this season and that is to become the National Champions.
Last season basketball fans got to see the in-your-face full-court press that helped “Press Virginia” lead the nation in steals and finish second in turnover margin.
WVU had 376 steals in the 2014-15 season, which is the second-best single-season total in Big 12 history and 12 away from the conference record. The Mountaineers set a school record for opponent turnovers with 678.
WVU committed a lot of fouls last season and the shot clock changes could spell trouble. But it seems as if head coach Bob Huggins always figures it out.
The Mountaineers the majority of last season’s team returning minus Gary Browne, Chase Connor, Juwan Staten and Billy Dee Williams.
Browne and Staten are the biggest losses for the Mountaineers. Both were reliable defensively, leaders and Staten could hit some big shots.
WVU returns 74 percent of its point production. Junior Devin Williams will lead the Mountaineers. He averaged 11.6 points and 8.4 rebounds last season.
The 6-foot-9, 255-pound forward is expected to be a leader both on and off the court, and he exhibited that as the season progressed last year. He has broad shoulders and a long wingspan.
WVU was 7-2 in games where Williams posted a double-double, but the Mountaineers will need him to cut back on the fouls.
Jonathan Holton is another important piece to WVU’s press. He averaged 7.5 points and 5.9 rebounds last season.
The 6-foot-7, 225-pound senior needs to be on the court for the press to be successful. That means Holton needs to cut back on the fouls. He had 118 fouls and fouled out seven times last season.
Elijah Macon is looking to expand his role this season. As a freshman, the 6-foot-9. 240-pound forward averaged 4.3 points and grabbed an average of 2.7 rebounds.
Holton, Macon and Williams combined to grab 241 of the team’s offensive rebounds last season.
Nathan Adrian had wrist surgery after the season last year and seems to be on the mend. His injury hindered him to just 2.5 points per game, which was down from the 5.4 points during his freshman campaign.
Adrian also struggled from beyond-the-arc last season after showing the ability to hit some big shots as a freshman.
Brandon Watkin’s status is unknown this season after suffering a knee injury at the end of last season.
Sophomore guard Jevon Carter made the Big 12’s All-Defensive team last season, averaging 1.9 steals per game. He averaged 8.1 points last season.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Carter led the Mountaineers with 48 3-pointers. Carter took over at the point when Staten and Browne got injured at the end of last season.
He struggled shooting during that time. Carter shot just 13 percent from the field, including going 0 for 10 in a tough loss to Kansas.
WVU will need Carter to continue putting up the points while running the team this season.
Daxter Miles Jr. averaged 7.3 points during his freshman season. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound guard is loud, proud and confident.
He started all 35 games and as the season progressed he became an offensive threat. He finished the season shooting 19-of-38 from beyond-the-arc.
Tarik Phillip struggled at the beginning of last season, but he came on strong when the Mountaineers needed him most. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound junior had six threes, including a three that helped WVU beat Buffalo in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Phillip is a defensive threat and one of the best ball-on-ball defenders the Mountaineers have.
Jaysean Paige averaged 5.6 points last season. He struggled defensively at times.
WVU will need Paige to fill holes in the backcourt.
Esa Ahmad is the versatile newcomer expected to make an immediate impact for the Mountaineers. He was a two-time Ohio high school Player of the Year and can play the two, three or four position.
The 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward is a strong passer, scorer and rebounder. He averaged 23.3 points and 10.2 rebounds during his senior year of high school.
WVU was expecting James “Beetle” Bolden to help, but the guard suffered a season-ending knee injury before the season began.
Another newcomer expected to help the Mountaineers was Marshall transfer TyQuane Goard, but he left the team before the season due to personal reasons.
Lamont West averaged 17.8 points as a high school senior. He could provide help inside.
Treyvon Myers is a junior college transfer who had seven 30-point games last season.
Myers was the nation’s highest scoring JUCO guard with 25.1 points per game. He shot 36 percent from beyond-the-arc and 85 percent from the foul line at Williston State Community College.
He is struggling to adjust to D-1 basketball, but Huggins is confident he will in time.
The Mountaineers have the players to repeat off last season’s success. WVU is loaded up front. They need to improve on committing fouls and on shooting, but WVU has what it takes to finish fourth in a loaded Big 12 conference.