Consistency? Are there any consistencies concerning Mountaineers?
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Will a reliable point guard jump out of the woodwork for WVU’s Mountaineers?
Jordan McCabe, the freshman from Wisconsin, had played himself into a firm set on the bench. Chase Harler had been such an off-target shooter from the perimeter that his minutes had dwindled. Brandon Knapper, from South Charleston High, didn’t even make the trip to Austin, where the Mountaineers lost to Texas.
James “Beetle” Bolden was tried at the point, but his three-point shooting suffered and he couldn’t find enough assists to be kept at that position.
If point guard were the only unreliable part of WVU’s picture, some sort of patchwork solution to the team’s problems might be found. But it’s not.
Sagaba Konate, the 6-foot-8 center/forward who wanted to leave Morgantown for professional basketball, but was told the NBA didn’t believe in his abilities, may not play again this season because of a leg problem that has WVU and his family at odds.
Forwards Esa Ahmad and Lamont West have been wildly inconsistent. Each will have a game where he scores 20 points, following that effort with a game with poor shooting, turnovers or foul problems. And Ahmad and West are upperclassmen looked to as cool heads and possible leaders.
Derek Culver, a 6-foot-10 first-year Mountaineer, has become West Virginia’s de facto center now that Konate is missing and 6-foot-11 Logan Routt has not progressed enough to where he can be relied upon to score seven points a night.
And as a team, West Virginia hasn’t shot well at all from the field or the foul line, where it converted only 18-of-32 shots in losing to Texas Tech.
Team-wide turnovers, the inability to disrupt opponents with pressure defense and in-and-out performances from starter Wes Harris have made winning akin to Atlas carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Can improvement be expected? Or will the players fragment into selfish, points-first, points-always individuals that are in danger of losing any conference game?
The Big 12 has legitimate NCAA tournament contenders around every Southwest corner. Even Kansas, the conference champion for 14 consecutive seasons, has already lost a league game.
West Virginia needs to win a close game, using free-throw accuracy and showing a cohesive group of players straining to help each other. Otherwise . . .