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Opinion: Addressing All WVU Basketball Questions for the Off-Season

It’s hard to believe that it has already been nearly a month since the West Virginia men’s basketball team ended their 2020-21 season.

Looking back at it, it’s still incredible how the coaching staff dealt with the leading scorer from the 2019-20 season—Oscar Tshiebwe—leaving the program. WVU coach Bob Huggins put trust in Jalen Bridges to enter the starting lineup after not playing any significant time. The Mountaineers had an exciting season with thrilling wins and annoying losses. It felt like every game came down to the final minute. Even though the March Madness appearance could be viewed as disappointing, as Houston—the region’s winner—had the “easiest” path in tournament history. The Mountaineers showed a lot of potential for next year.

Let’s first address what we know for sure. Since the tournament lost to Syracuse, the Mountaineers have lost Jordan McCabe and Emmitt Matthews Jr. to the transfer portal. McCabe committed to UNLV, while Matthews still hasn’t made a decision.

With departures came newcomers, as the coaching staff was able to land two transfers in Malik Curry (Old Dominion) and Dimon Carrigan (Florida International).

How good will Curry and Carrigan be for the Mountaineers? It’s safe to say pretty damn good.

Curry is a guard who averaged over 13 points per game in the last two seasons at Old Dominion. Curry is a slasher who gets to the rim and kicks the ball out. It would be a great fit if Curry drove into the lane and kicked it out to Sean McNeil, Taz Sherman and Jalen Bridges. Curry could make a huge impact on the Mountaineers regardless if Deuce McBride returns next season.

Carrigan will play the center position next season for the Mountaineers, it could be starter minutes, could be backup minutes—I’ll get into that discussion later. Carrigan averaged 6.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 24 games for Florida International. It’s clear that Carrigan is a defensive-minded big man, which the Mountaineers definitely need. Once Tshiebwe left, Derek Culver’s defense was notably more conservative as he was the only true big man left on the roster. So if Culver got in foul trouble, Gabe Osabuohien would have to play the center position. This is a great get for next year’s team.

Curry and Carrigan will both have one season with WVU before their eligibility runs out.

Now it’s time to address the question marks.

WVU had players enter the 2021 NBA draft with the opportunity to come back next year.

Player / Chance of Returning to WVU

  • Miles McBride / 51%
  • Sean McNeil / 99%
  • Taz Sherman / 90%

I think it’s very safe to say that McNeil and Sherman will return for the Mountaineers next season, as both could use one more year. Both also have a very good chance of getting the keys to the offense next year.

McBride is the only player in this group that has a chance of not returning. Over the last few weeks, McBride’s draft stock has rose to an early second round pick. Huggins has said he thinks McBride will return, as his family is high on education. So, who knows. McBride will continue to impress scouts when he trains at the NBA combine. Regardless, it will be a long time before we find out if these three stay or leave. A date to mark on your calendar is July 19; this is the deadline that they have to withdraw from the draft and return to school.

One name that’s surprisingly not on that list is Derek Culver. Culver was second on the team in points and first in rebounds. In today’s world of college basketball, it’s smart to declare for the draft and workout for the NBA scouts.

Recently, Culver has traveled to Los Angeles and has been posting on his Instagram story about his trip. Culver has been hanging with friends and training in the local gyms. Someone liked to start the rumor that Culver is clearly leaving West Virginia; not true. A future possibility? Sure, but there’s no indication that he’s clearly leaving as of now.

Derek Culver is the biggest question mark on the roster as he’s been silent. Culver would be smart to return for one last run but if the money is there, I don’t blame him.

Best Case LineupMy Predicted Lineup (4/16)
Malik Curry – PGMalik Curry – PG
Miles McBride – SGSean McNeil – SG
Sean McNeil – SFTaz Sherman – SF
Jalen Bridges – PFJalen Bridges – PF
Derek Culver – CDerek Culver – C
Taz Sherman – BNGabe Osabuohien – BN
Gabe Osabuohien – BNDimon Carrigan – BN

(Top Photo: Scott Weaver)

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