West Virginia coach Bob Huggins hopes to put his worst season since 2012-13 behind him when the Mountaineers begin anew as Akron visits Friday in the season opener. Plagued by injuries, suspensions and lack of team chemistry, West Virginia finished 15-21 - 10th in the Big 12 - which led to a mass exodus after the season.
Freshman sensation Derek Culver (11.5 points, 9.9 rebounds), named to the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Watch List, missed the first 10 games due to "getting my priorities straight" while James Bolden, Sagaba Kanate and Esa Ahmad missed a big portion of the season with injuries. Bolden left for Alabama as a grad transfer, Kanate turned pro and Ahmed just left, while six other players transferred, most notably Lamont West (11.1 points, 4.1 rebounds) to Missouri State. "You can't lose four starters (during the year) and be successful," Huggins said. "We lost our point guard, the best shot blocker in the country and two other starters. I don't know if four of them were on the court at the same time all year." Akron, which had one of the stingiest defenses but worst offenses in Division I last season, opened its 2019-20 campaign with an 81-64 victory over Division II foe Malone University.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, AT&T Sportsnet
ABOUT AKRON (1-0): The Zips last year posted the No. 22 adjusted defensive efficiency rating according to Kenpom.com (94.1 points per 100 possessions), the stingiest MAC defense since Western Michigan posted a 94.0 in 2002-03; however, the offense ranked 259th in offensive efficiency (100), easily the worst showing by the Zips since Kenpom began tracking the stat in 1996-97. One solution for the offense is Dayton transfer Xeyrius Williams (5.0 points, 3.1 rebounds in 2017-18), who had 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds in his debut. Seniors Channel Banks (6.5 points last season) and Tyler Cheese (11.1 points) added 15 points apiece, while transfer Camron Reece (13.1 points, 7.8 rebounds at Sheridan (Cal.) College), collected 13 points and six boards.
ABOUT WEST VIRGINIA (2018-19: 15-21): With a bare cupboard for the first time in a long while, Huggins got busy, bringing in Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year 6-9 Oscar Tshiebwe (23.4 points, 18.0 rebounds), former Moeller High School standout quarterback Miles McBride and junior college All-American Sean McNeil (29.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists at Sinclair (KY) JC. Forward Jermaine Haley (7.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 51 percent from the field) returns after averaging 16.3 points the last 10 games of last season - including 28 against Iowa State - along with Emmitt Matthews (5.4 points, 3.1 rebounds). The backcourt will likely be manned by McBride, Jordan McCabe (5.8 points, 2.5 assists), Chase Harler (5.4 points) and Brandon Knapper (5.0).
1. Tshiebwe, the first McDonald's All-American at West Virginia since Chris Brooks in 1986 and just the third ever, scored 17 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in a 78-70 exhibition game victory over Duquesne on Nov. 1. He shot 7-of-10 from the floor and grabbed a game-best eight offensive rebounds.
2. Despite all the departures, West Virginia was selected fifth in the preseason Big 12 poll.
3. Williams averaged 8.2 points as a sophomore on Dayton's NCAA Tournament team that garnered a No. 7 seed, but he regressed as a junior, shooting 27.4 percent beyond the arc while attempting nearly twice as many 3-pointers as 2-pointers.
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Morgantown, West Virginia, USA.