As you probably already know, I’m a huge fan of analytics of any type, especially when that scientific data makes for an improvement. Baseball is the leader, ironically, in advanced metrics because the sport has so many more years of raw data. But sometimes analytics can’t show everything. In baseball, defensive metrics are essentially in their infant stages. The same can be said for basketball.
One of the keys to last nights win over Oklahoma doesn’t need advanced metrics.
Buddy Hield, who scored 39 the night before against Iowa State, was held to 6 points.
And it was a fantastic defensive effort from Daxter Miles and the other three guards who literally hounded Hield all night. I can’t come up enough superlatives to priase how well West Virginia handled Hield. He couldn’t get open, when he took shots he was off balance, and he wasn’t able to get the foul. It was the best single defensive performance I have seen from a team in recent memory, especially because it was against a terrific Oklahoma team. Paige and Phillip, the former known for his offense – the latter more so, didn’t contribute much offense but gathered together to form the familiar 9-10 man cohesive unit of relentless defense that WVU fans are used to seeing.
The other thing that metrics can’t really measure is want. Every team goes into every game *wanting* to win, but there can only be one winner. If you don’t have that mindset, why even compete? West Virginia doesn’t have a Buddy Hield, Rico Gathers, or Perry Ellis, but one through nine they are as strong as any team in the country. And that’s probably underselling them a lot. The ability to play so hard for 40 minutes and execute a game plan doesn’t show up on the pretty offensive side of the stat sheet. What does show up during the game is the ability to replace guys who are going full speed to get them a rest and not lose value on the court. And last night was a master class.
Carter, Miles, Ahmad, Williams, Adrian, Holton, Macon, Piage, and Phillip form a cohesive unit that is more than capable of getting to the final four. They may not be the best shooters; they make more mistakes than Bob Huggins wants to see but at the end of the day they can beat anyone this year.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Tonight is Kansas and a chance to win the tournament, take the season series, and maybe most importantly, lock in a #2 seed for the tournament. Because let’s face it, they didn’t give WVU the 1 seed in 2010 and that sure isn’t going to happen this year