WATCH NOW - Media Day Interview with Joe Mazzulla
The Big Picture: The Mountaineers made a memorable run to the NCAA Final Four last year in a season that also included their first BIG EAST Championship crown. WVU posted 13 BIG EAST wins, its highest total since joining the league for hoops in 1995-96. Coach Bob Huggins’ squad finished 31-7. Three key contributors -- Da’Sean Butler, Devin Ebanks and Wellington Smith -- have to be replaced, but Huggins still has some battle-tested veterans who should keep the Mountaineers in BIG EAST contention.
Who’s Back: Junior forward Kevin Jones may take over as the Mountaineers’ top gun. The 6-8 junior was second on the team in scoring (13.5) and rebounding (7.2) last season while also shooting a team-high 40.4 percent from 3-point range. Junior Darryl “Truck” Bryant and senior Joe Mazzulla are back to share the point guard spot. Bryant is the usual starter. He averaged 9.3 ppg while playing 23.3 minutes per game. Mazzulla averaged only 2.7 ppg while putting in 16.1 minutes, but he was the MVP of the NCAA East Regional last season when he scored 17 points in a win over Kentucky. Senior Casey Mitchell (3.7) and sophomore Dalton Pepper (3.1) return to help with perimeter shooting. Six-nine, 270-pound Deniz Kilicli missed two-thirds of the regular season due to an eligibility issue, but averaged 3.5 points and showed commendable offensive skills in limited playing time. Seniors John Flowers (3.1, 2.4) and Cam Thoroughman (1.0, 1.3) along with sophomore Danny Jennings (1.5, 1.6) all have had their moments in the frontcourt.
Who’s Missing: Butler ended his senior season as a Mountaineer hero. A team captain, he averaged 17.2 points and 6.2 rebounds. Butler won the Dave Gavitt Trophy as the Most Outstanding Player in the BIG EAST Championship and was the national winner of the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. The athletic Ebanks averaged 12.0 points and a team-leading 8.1 boards while earning All-BIG EAST Second Team honors. Smith was a dependable forward who averaged 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds.
Storylines: The Mountaineers have three starters to replace, but appear to have some experienced players ready to step into more prominent roles. WVU figures to continue with its trademark combination of rebounding and defense. The Mountaineers often appear to be a team with several interchangeable parts. In league games last season, the Mountaineers led the BIG EAST with a +5.0 rebound margin. Among four freshmen, guard Noah Cottrill is a combo guard who may see some significant action right away. Forward Darrious Curry is a wing candidate. Forward Kevin Noreen is 6-10, but is known more as a shooter who can step away from the basket. David Nyarsuk, a 7-1 center, will fight for minutes in the low post.