The West Virginia men’s basketball team will finally figure out what their team will look like in less than 30 days from now. On July 7, guards Miles ‘Deuce’ McBride and Sean McNeil will have to decide whether they will go for the league or return to represent the state of West Virginia.
Last season, McBride emerged as the best player on the Mountaineers, becoming one of the few always consistent players. A near-perfect game in the first round of the NCAA Tournament really helped boost McBride’s draft stock and the sophomore from Cincinnati is now training for the NBA combine later this month.
McBride’s upcoming decision really puts a question mark on the program for next season. Let’s take a look at what the potential starting fives could be.
|With McBride||Without McBride|
|Malik Curry||Malik Curry|
|Miles McBride||Sean McNeil|
|Sean McNeil||Taz Sherman|
|Jalen Bridges||Jalen Bridges|
|Pauly Paulicap||Pauly Paulicap|
*Note: Cottrell could start at the five but I’m giving the nod to the fifth-year senior Paulicap
Obviously, if McBride returns, WVU will be once again a contender in the Big 12. Kansas, Baylor, and Texas are looking like the only teams with better teams on paper than West Virginia. I think either way Malik Curry starts at the point, leading to McBride returning to his natural shooting guard position. A backcourt of McBride and Curry would give guards nightmares for 30 minutes a game. McBride and Curry combined for 3.8 steals per game in the 2020-21 season.
I think the team with McBride would look very similar to the post-Oscar Tshiebwe team last season, with Jalen Bridges at the four and Taz Sherman as the sixth man off the bench. I also believe that Pauly Paulicap will surprise some and be a very productive big man for the Mountaineers, which would help out Gabe Osabuohien a bunch.
Now, we look at worst-case scenario for WVU fans: McBride keeps his name in the draft and departures from WVU. On paper, this team could look a little underwhelming with a lot of question marks. McNeil and Sherman would become the go-to scorers with help from Bridges and Curry; not too bad considering that the Mountaineers would have lost four starters in the last six months if McBride does decide to leave.
There are also a lot of players on the team that would thrive and receives more playing time. McBride is a great teammate and makes everyone better on the floor but these players would get more opportunities to showcase their skills.
Jalen Bridges: Expect the sophomore forward to take a leap in production next season as he goes from his first to second year. Coaches talk about how the most important time in a college basketball player’s career is the offseason from freshman to sophomore year. This will eventually be Bridges’ team and could solidify that by a great year in 2021-22.
Seth Wilson / Kobe Johnson: Wilson and Johnson are the two 2021 commits that Bob Huggins and the coaching staff were able to get. Both incoming freshmen are guards. After next season, they will have the keys to the offense. Malik Curry and Kedrian Johnson are seniors in 2021-22. If McBride does return, one of these two would probably redshirt due to the number of guards on the roster.
I think right now Mountaineer fans have already accepted McBride leaving all because of the mock drafts and the draft combine invitation. Remember, there’s a reason why McBride, Sherman, McNeil and Culver declared; they want to experience the draft process and this is part of it. There’s a chance that McBride could just go to the combine and receive input on what he needs to work on. This does not mean he’s gone, yet.
Let’s not forget what Huggs said in April.
“I think the family decision would be that he should stay and get his education,” Huggins said. “I don’t believe that he is going to bail out on his education, but that’s just me.”
It’ll be an interesting few weeks for McBride and the Mountaineers.
(Top Photo: Dale Sparks)