The college basketball season got started over the weekend across the country and in the Mountain State.
In Morgantown the Mountaineers men’s basketball team is fresh off a first round upset loss in the NCAA tournament last season to Stephen F. Austin This season they’re picked to finish second in the Big 12 conference preseason poll and start the season ranked 20th in the country by the Associated Press. Of the 15 players on the Mountaineers basketball roster, there are 6 freshmen. Head Coach Bob Huggins said there is no time for the freshman to sit around and gain experience, the Mountaineers use a system of constant movement, so they’ll need to play.
“We’re going to play a lot of people so they’re going to play, our two bigs are going to play,” Huggins said. “We have a 6-10 freshman and a 6-8 freshman and they’re going to play. I hope we can get into other peoples bench and make them play guys they haven’t played a lot in just a cumulative effect of what we do, wears on them.”
Huggins coaches an aggressive and frantic nature for his team. The strategy is to tire the opposition and force them to play players that would normally stay on the bench. The Mountaineer women are still working on their line up. .Preseason injuries have forced the women to adjust floor positions.. The Mountaineer women are picked 4th in the preseason Big 12 poll and ranked 22nd in the Associated Press Preseason poll. Mike Carey is the head coach of the women’s program.
“What we don’t have set is who is coming off the bench and what position, with all the injuries I’m trying to get people to play several positions right now, we’re just trying to find out what’s the best combination at certain times of the game and that’s going to take a little while to decide,”Carey said.
Both the Mountaineer men and women tipped off their seasons over the weekend.
The other Division 1 program in the state, the Marshall Thundering Herd saw both of its programs tip-off over the weekend. The Marshall University men are picked to finish 4th in the preseason Conference USA poll after a surprising 17-16 record last season. Marshall Head Coach Dan D’Antoni said he won’t guarantee wins, but he’s sure they’ve improved since last year.
“But I think we can guarantee you an exciting season, practice has shown that the ball is more fast paced, we’ll attack the basket at a faster pace,” D’Antoni said. ‘Think I can guarantee and feel confident that these kids will play together, they’ll give you, Marshall, the state and Huntington the best they have in them.”
A year after making their first appearance in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament, the Marshall Women’s team is picked 10th in Conference USA. Head Coach Matt Daniel said he’s put together a tough early season schedule to get the team ready for conference play later in the year.
“We’re at North Carolina and we’re at Illinois, we go to Penn State, we have Florida A&M here and Coastal Carolina here,” Daniel said. “We’ve got some meat on that bone of the non-conference schedule, but I think it prepares us to learn about ourselves and I think with our youth it’s important to learn who we are.”
The WVU men next play at home tonight at 7 p.m. against Mississippi Valley state. The women play at home tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m. against Howard.
In Huntington the Marshall women are at home tomorrow night at 6 p.m. against Floriday A&M. The men are at home Wednesday at 7 p.m. against Morehead State.
In the Mountain East Conference, the West Liberty men’s team is picked to win the conference. And Fairmont State is picked to when on the Women’s Side.