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Getting to know West Virginia ahead of tonight’s matchup with #12 UVA

uva virginia basketball#12 Virginia has its hands full heading into tonight’s matchup with #16 West Virginia (7 p.m., ESPNU).

For starters, the environment. Even Kansas doesn’t win in Morgantown, having dropped four straight to the Mountaineers at the 14,000-seat WVU Coliseum.

No doubt the home fans will be as out for just about as much blood with Virginia coming to town as they would be for Kansas, even if we won’t be bringing a pep band with us, thankfully for us.

Next, to the team. WVU lost to eventual national runnerup Gonzaga by three in the Sweet 16 in March, a frustrating end to a 28-win season.

The ‘Neers return Jevon Carter, a do-everything guard averaging a team-best 19.0 points and 5.5 assists per game while shooting 44.6 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three-point range.

 

Daxter Miles Jr. has stepped up as Carter’s backcourt running mate, averaging 14.9 points, up from 8.8 points per game a year ago, and shooting 47.7 percent from the field.

Coach Bob Huggins has had to adjust to the losses of Nathan Adrian (9.6 ppg, 6.0 rebs/g) and Elijah Macon (6.3 ppg, 4.2 rebs/g), but 6’8” sophomores Lamont West (10.5 ppg, 5.1 rebs/g), Sagaba Konate (9.6 ppg, 6.1 rebs/g) and Wesley Harris (8.0 ppg, 6.1 rebs/g) have more than made up for the lost production in the frontcourt.

WVU, like Virginia, hangs its hats on the defensive end, albeit a night and day difference in terms of approach from the one preferred by UVA coach Tony Bennett. The Mountaineers employ what fans call “Press Virginia,” 40 minutes of full-court pressure that forces opponents to work and also helps West Virginia set the tempo.

The ‘Neers play to an average tempo of 75.4 possessions per team per game, 10th best in D1, per KenPom.com, almost entirely the polar opposite of what you see out of Virginia, which plays to an average of 61.6 team possessions per game, 351st, and dead last, in D1.

The two teams are familiar with each other from games over the past two years. Virginia defeated WVU in 2015 in a game in Madison Square Garden, 70-54, with West Virginia taking last year’s matchup in Charlottesville, defeating the ‘Hoos, 66-57.

This one is a series that you’d like to see continue, and you have to admire both Bennett and Huggins for being willing to put the other on the schedule for tough December games.

Story by Chris Graham

 
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