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What Can We Expect From WVU Basketball In Big 12 Conference Play?

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Three friends gathered in the Coliseum to discuss the Mountaineers as they enter Big 12 play. After dismantling the Virgina Tech Hokies and ending non-conference play at 11-1, what can we expect from the Mountaineers in conference play?

Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome one and all to the Roundball Shootyhoops Roundtable Discussion. Put on your game faces and masks and lets get ready to party like its 1999. I've brought Dustin, Robert and Will to talk all about the fighting Bob Huggins' and Mr. Goggles himself, Devin Williams.

Its Party Time

Q1: Welcome to roundball season. As the 2015-2016 Mountaineers finish up their non conference slate, have we learned anything?

DE White: I think we've learned that this pressing style is sustainable. After leading the country in turnover percentage (28.0%) and steal percentage (15.5%) last season, they again rank number one in both categories with even better numbers (30.1 TO%, 16.5 steal %) this season.

There's a year's worth of film on #PressVirginia, and it still causes chaos. It'll be interesting to see how much the turnover numbers drop once we get deep into conference play.

Robert: I think that we know that Chaos is the operative word with this team. When the Mounties are creating chaos for their opponents, they are very good. When they are creating chaos for themselves (see the last 25 minutes of the UVA game) they are very hard to watch. If they can make few shots and continue to rebound the ball offensively when the bigs are bigger, good things will happen.

William Hirsch: As previously noted we've learned that the press is certainly the way to go with this team. They are athletic enough and they have the bench depth to wear teams down throughout the game. To beat the best teams in the Big 12 though, the Mountaineers need to not dig themselves into a hole early on in games and expect to get out of it. Fast starts will be needed.

Last year the Mountaineers finished 11-7 in conference good for 5th. What it's your expectations for this year?


DE White: I'll be surprised if they are any lower than fifth. Right now I have the Big 12 in three tiers:

Tier One - championship contenders: Oklahoma, Kansas, West Virginia, Iowa State

Tier Two - solid NCAA tournament teams: Texas, Baylor, Kansas State

Tier Three - tough outs but a notch below the rest: Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU

I see West Virginia winning 12-13 conference games. A +.500 record in league play will all but guarantee a tournament bid.

Robert: My expectation is about the same as they finished last season. My biggest fear is that the press will not be as effective against good teams that are now seeing it for the third and fourth times. Holding serve at home is the first step to improving on last year's 11-7 mark. That said, if the ball bounces the wrong way a couple times and the shooting slumps start to rear up, the Mounties could slide closer to .500.

William Hirsch: I think WVU has a real shot at winning the Big 12. To do so they will have to go through some really solid teams like Oklahoma (who I think will win the Big 12), Kansas, and Iowa State. I think the Mountaineers can split with those teams but whether they beat them twice and avoid a big upset loss to lower caliber teams like Texas, OK State and Baylor, is, as DJ Khaled would say, "the major key to life."

Devin Williams started the year with 5 straight double doubles and looks like the best player for WVU. What are your thoughts on Devin?

Robert: Devin has been great so far, but the competition is about to get a serious upgrade. I think that he has shown that he can play with his back to the basket against pretty much any single defender, but his ability to pass out of double teams has been a work in progress. He will make the game much easier on himself if he can find the open guy (and if that guy can actually knock down a shot). If he finishes through contact and makes his free throws at a respectable rate (currently 70%) the Mountaineers can challenge every opponent in the conference.

William Hirsch: Williams absolutely needs to show more consistency. If WVU is going to try and beat the Oklahomas, Kansas', and the Iowa States of the Big 12, he is going to have to find ways to produce against the best defenders those squads have to offer. The Mountaineers are going to have a tough time beating those guys if Williams can't find a way to avoid getting shutdown.

DE White: I think Devin's numbers would be even better if West Virginia had someone who could consistently make good entry passes. Regardless, he's been as good as expected this season. Williams is drawing 7.4 fouls per 40 minutes, which is among the best in the nation. I don't know if he's answered the questions we have of him for the next level (lack of explosion, passing out of double teams, foot speed), but he's a GREAT college player and likely all-conference selection.

Let's hope the rumors of him leaving after his junior season are just message board fodder, because a 2016-17 Mountaineer squad led by senior Devin Williams could be special.

Kansas has won the Big 12 eleven straight seasons. Will this be the year anyone stops Bill Self?

Robert: Nah. OU looks great and Buddy Hield is playing like a man possessed, but I don't see any reason to pick against KU.

Angry Nope

Will Hirsch: Not everyone is going to stop Bill Self. I think the Sooners will though.

DE White: My useless prediction is that this is the year that the Kansas streak comes to an end. Oklahoma is the best team I've seen in any conference. The Sooners are loaded and are the #1 team according to KenPom.

At this point, though, maybe we should all just assume that Kansas will find a way to somehow win it again.

Bill Self Raining