State Colleges Tip-Off Basketball Season

Bob Huggins

College basketball season has begun in West Virginia.

The West Virginia University men’s team tips off its season in exhibition play Friday night against Glenville State. Last year, the Mountaineers made a run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. It was the most successful season since an appearance in the final four in 2009. WVU Head Coach Bob Huggins said the key to last year was adopting a full-court press on defense, where defenders guard their player all over the floor. 

“I was tired of losing was the biggest thing. I think sometimes it’s good to do something different and I kind of looked around the league and nobody played that way and so it kind of gives you an advantage to a degree when you do something that other people don’t do,” Huggins said.

The West Virginia women’s program finished last year with a loss in the women’s National Invitational Tournament Championship game to UCLA. The NIT tournament is considered the second in prestige behind the NCAA Tournament. The WVU women have already knocked off Shepherd in their exhibition opener on Halloween. Head Coach Mike Carey said they’ll try to be more aggressive this year, maybe press more like the men.

“We want to, we’re working on some things this year that we didn’t do the last couple of years to be honest with you because we feel we’re a little bit deeper especially on the perimeter, because we’re not really big inside that we feel we have to defend out on the perimeter and take some time off the clock and not just let people bring it to half court and start running their offense,” Carey said.

The Marshall men’s basketball team enters the second season of the Dan D’Antoni era with almost an entire new unit of players. Marshall finished last year 11-21, but won five of their last nine regular-season games. They open exhibition play next Thursday against Bluefield State. Coach D’Antoni said he thinks the new roster can better handle his up-tempo style. 

“We’ve overhauled our team, 11 new faces, two seniors, three juniors and a lot of underclassmen,” D’Antoni said. “I think this ball club has the potential to reach our goals. And they’re working hard on the floor to give you a more exciting brand of basketball that has a chance to advance in the NCAA.”

A year after making its first postseason appearance in the Women’s Basketball Invitational, the Marshall women’s team has been picked to finish 10th in a Conference USA poll. The postseason appearance was the first since an NCAA Tournament appearance in 1997. Head Coach Matt Daniel said it’s an extremely young roster. 

“I’m really excited about our team, we’re really young. We have 16 on the roster, 14 or 15 will be available,” Daniel said. “Of our 15 or 14 that are available, 10 of them didn’t play Division I basketball last year so we’re picked young, I don’t know what we have we’re so young. I can tell you I really like our team and the people we have on our roster.”

In the Mountain East Conference, West Liberty University has dominant teams in both men’s and women’s basketball. The men are preseason number 3 in the NCAA Division II Preseason Top 25 poll. While the West Liberty Women are picked 12 in the preseason poll.