2008 West Virginia Mountaineers Basketball Preview
Last season, under new head coach Bob Huggins, the Mountaineers of West Virginia (26-11 overall, 11-7 Big East) finished sixth in the conference and won an invite to the Big Dance where they made it to the Sweet 16. They were bumped from the tournament by Xavier 79-75. This year, the club includes some of the best recruits in the nation, a bunch of returning sophomores and juniors and one senior.
Junior small forward Da’Sean Butler (30.6 MPG, 12.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.7 APG, 49.5 FG%, 64.0 FT%) and junior power forward Wellington Smith (20.2 MPG, 5.2 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 0.9 APG, 42.2 FG%, 54.0 FT%) are both back. Butler is capable of playing either forward spot, while Smith ably utilizes his quickness and power around the rim. Freshman swing Devan Ebanks, considered to be one of the top 15 players in the nation, offers fine range, good size and nice moves. He can play and score from the front or back. Frosh Roscoe Davis, who is six-foot-ten and 225 pounds, will try to make an impression at center.
Two-way guard Darris Nichols (10.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.2 SPG) is gone, but junior Joe Mazzulla (18.5 MPG, 5.8 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, 45.8 FG%, 64.9 FT%) has been working hard over the off-season on his ball handling and playmaking. Mazzulla put in some important minutes last year. Guard Alex Ruoff (31.9 MPG, 13.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.8 APG, 47.9 FG%, 82.6 FT%), the only senior on the team, offers a fine shot. Incoming freshman Darryl Bryant, nicknamed “Truck,” is a point guard who can slash to the basket. He’ll be useful in his initial season.
The Mountaineers will have a tough time finishing any higher than
ninth, but that won’t preclude a tournament bid. Look for
Huggins to guide this team into the NCAA tourney, but much more
than one-and-done is unlikely. The inexperience and youth will hold
West Virginia back this season. Next year, the Mountaineers should
be one of the best in the Big East and armed for bear.