Things have been a little hectic since the initial release of West Virginia’s non-conference basketball schedule, but here is EerSports’ take on which of those ten games (not including the Old Spice Tournament) will be the toughest.
Is the neutral court contest against Michigan the toughest non-conference game of the year?
10. December 22nd, vs Radford: The Highlanders were 301st in points scored last year, but the load was dumped on the shoulders of true freshmen R.J. Price (11.2 points) and Javonte Green (10.2). The duo will have an extra year of experience under their belts, but even still, the only way the Mountaineers lose this one is if they’re halfway home for Christmas.
9. December 30th, vs Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels lose their two best players in Jaron and Joshua Jones (no relation). After that, it’s a steep dropoff and EKU wasn’t exactly a powerhouse with them – finishing towards the bottom in all of Division I basketball in several categories, not the least of which was rebounds (29.4 per game).
8. November 29th, vs Virginia Military Institute: Three starters from last year’s squad are gone and the run-and-gun style may not work as well against a West Virginia team that is surprisingly deep this winter. Someone will have to pay a lot of attention to Stan Okoye (17.1 points, 7.2 rebounds), though.
7. December 8th, vs Virginia Tech: This had the makings of being a very tough game, with only two contributors set to graduate after last year. However, a change in head coach resulted in the transfer of leading rebounder Dorian Finney-Smith and the loss of multiple recruits in what would have been a solid recruiting class.
6. December 11th, AT Duquesne: The Dukes lose two starters, but seven others who played in at least 29 games will return this winter. Obviously, having Ron Everhart will give West Virginia some knowledge that no other team will possess. The Mountaineers should also be able to dominate the boards, where Duquesne was one of the worst in the country last season.
5. December 5th, vs Marshall (in Charleston, WV): Marshall returns the always dangerous DeAndre Kane (16.5 ppg) and double-double man Dennis Tinnon (10.2 points, 10.0 rebounds). The Mountaineers have a history of coming into the game with little purpose, but with the game moved to December, may be more inclined to put forth their best effort from the start.
4. December 19th, vs Oakland: Oakland loses its top player, Reggie Hamilton (26.2 ppg), as well as fellow starter Laval Lucas-Perry, but the Golden Grizzlies are a regular NCAA team and won 20 games last year. Travis Bader (15.9 points) and Drew Valentine (11.4 points, 7.1 rebounds) will be tough matchups for the Mountaineers.
3. January 19th, AT Purdue: This game may not be as tough as it seems on paper as the Boilermakers have lost their three best players from last season: Robbie Hummel, Lewis Jackson and Ryne Smith. There’s some decent talent at Purdue, plus it will be held in West Lafayette late in the year, so the new guys will be seasoned vets by then.
2. December 15th, vs Michigan (in Brooklyn, NY): Past versus the present as the Mountaineers face former coach John Beilein and Michigan. The Wolverines lose two starters (Zack Novak and Stu Douglass), but their two best players remain – Trey Burke (14.8 ppg) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (14.6).
1. November 12th, AT Gonzaga: The Bulldogs demolished West Virginia to end the Mountaineers’ season back in March and return four of their five starters for this home opener. Kevin Pangos, Elias Harris and Gary Bell, Jr. will spearhead their attack and all are deadly outside shooters. Add in that this game is on the West Coast and at midnight (ET), and this is going to be one heck of a tough game to start the season.