Jan 26, 2019; Knoxville, TN, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers forward Esa Ahmad (23) looks to moves the ball against Tennessee Volunteers forward Grant Williams (2) during the second half at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tennessee won 83 to 66. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Location: Hilton Coliseum
KenPom Prediction: 82-67, Iowa State
1 – Less Press Virginia
After years of being the hallmark of West Virginia basketball, the Mountaineers have largely ditched the press this season, using it on just 26 percent of possessions. In turn, the team has struggled mightily and currently ranks No. 143 nationally in adjusted defense.
They are 10th in the Big 12 in adjusted defense during league games only. Basically, this year’s West Virginia team is completely different than the past few seasons.
“The relentless full-court pressure I haven’t seen in a couple games I’ve watched so far. If I was to pick one, that would be the biggest (difference),” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said. “I just think defensively in the couple games that I’ve seen, now, I’ve got a lot more to watch before Wednesday, but not as much of the relentless pressure on the ball for 94 feet as you’ve seen at sometimes. They may have done it earlier in the year but that’s what I’ve seen in recent games.”
2 – Seven Starters?
Much has been made of the way Prohm has used his rotation since Lindell Wigginton returned from injury and Cameron Lard got back from his seven-game suspension. Nearly every time the Cyclones prepare for another opponent the question of when Wigginton will return to the starting five is asked.
At this point, I’m not sure who is in the starting lineup really matters. At least, it does not seem like anyone inside the program is worried about it, so why should we be worried about it?
“We’ve got seven guys that are legit starters. There’s no doubt about it,” Prohm said. “It’s like I told the guys, Marial Shayok’s the leading scorer in the Big 12 but he didn’t play the last 12 minutes. Whoever I think gives us the best opportunity, I think that’s when we’re at our best. Whenever I’m focused on that.”
Iowa State won the segment he mentioned without Shayok by four points in Saturday’s win over Ole Miss, proving they don’t necessarily NEED the Big 12’s leading scorer on the court in every minute of the game. Prohm has proven to be coaching his best when he just rolls with feel when it comes the rotation and maybe it is time all of us trust him in this regard.
I’m sure the question won’t get asked again. Well, you know, at least until Texas is scheduled to come to town on Saturday.
3 – Missing Konate
The Curious Case of Sagaba Konate.
The 6-foot-9 junior was expected to contend for All-American honors this season, but that was before he missed 11 straight games with a (maybe, maybe not, maybe, but probably kinda not) knee injury that has left folks in Morgantown perplexed and angsty.
In his absence, the Mountaineers have lost basically all sense of identity. I mentioned the defensive numbers before, but they’re also last in the league in defensive block rate, opponent 2-point percentage and opponent effective field goal percentage.
It is honestly surprising this storyline has not seen more coverage in recent weeks because it could end up being one of the biggest things shaping the Big 12 race. With Konate, West Virginia could have been a contender in the league.
Without him, they become a shell of themselves. Iowa State learned last season just how hard it is to win in the Big 12 when you’re playing with a shell in a league full of full-blown turtles.
That probably wasn’t my best analogy, but let’s just roll with it.