WVU Basketball Preview: Can The Mountaineers Contend in 2019?

Posted on November 12, 2019

WVU basketball is back.

After an awful 2018 campaign, coach Bob Huggins is ready to make his 13th season in Morgantown one to remember for the WVU Mountaineers.

WVU basketball has been a consistent presence in the Big 12 Conference, as well as the national scene for years now. The team won at least 25 games for four consecutive years prior to last season.

Now, after going 15-21 overall, including a dreadful 4-14 in the conference, WVU fans are expecting major changes in 2019.

Despite the conference being loaded once again, the Mountaineers have plenty of pieces in place to be competitive this season. Huggins returns four starters from a year ago with hopes of having a lot more success this go around.

While betting on WVU football might be the most popular form of legal sports betting in WV, residents sure enjoy their basketball, as well. Sportsbooks in the Mountain State should continue to see lots of betting action during the winter months, too.

Before finishing 10th a year ago, WVU hadn’t done worse than third in the conference and had qualified for the NCAA tournament the previous four seasons. That’s the standard that coach Huggins has set at WVU over his tenure at the school.

The Mountaineers have won over 64% of their games since Huggins took over in 2007.

While fans and backers of WVU hoops have high hopes for this year, the team’s odds at West Virginia sportsbooks are slightly less enthusiastic. According to the online sports betting apps available in the state, the Mountaineers have about the seventh-best odds of winning the Big 12 in 2019.

Let’s take a deeper look at this year’s WVU men’s basketball team and examine how they’ll fare against another deep conference schedule.

WVU Mountaineer basketball 2019

The 2019 roster is much improved heading into this season. Although many college basketball teams have short-term success with one-and-done players, experience is often crucial when putting together a good team.

This year’s squad returns several players who were vital parts of last season’s roster.

Forward Derek Culver is back after being one of WVU’s top scorers a year ago. He nearly averaged a double-double last season with over 11 points and just under 10 rebounds per game.

Two other sophomores in Jordan McCabe and Emmitt Matthews Jr. should prove to be important pieces as well. Although both didn’t play very much (each averaged less than 20 minutes per game in 2018), they are both looking at increased roles this season.

Another starter coming back to WVU is senior Jermaine Haley. He averaged over seven points and four boards to go with a steal per game in his junior season.

All four of these players started at least 12 games in Morgantown for coach Huggins in 2018. He’s hoping that the experience they gained during the program’s down year will help propel them this season.

Senior guard Chase Harler, a local from Moundsville, is also expected to be among the starting five. He started 16 games last season and was fourth on the team in three-point field goals per game.

While veteran leadership will certainly be helpful, all of the attention this offseason has been on freshman forward Oscar Tshibewe. The 6’ 9”, 258-pound 19-year-old is a McDonald’s All-American and a former five-star recruit.

Tshibewe hails from the Republic of the Congo and will be the first McDonald’s All-American to play for WVU since Greg Simpson in 1996. He was selected as the Big 12 Conference’s preseason freshman of the year last week.

WVU basketball predictions

While WVU seems to be in a position to have a much better season in 2019, its competition has not gotten any easier. The Big 12 remains a very strong college basketball conference and features some of the best teams in the nation.

Kansas again is at the top of the class even after coming off a disappointing season. The Jayhawks have been excellent in recent years under head coach Bill Self and experts aren’t expecting them to have six conference losses again.

KU ranked third in both the AP and Coaches Poll prior to the season starting.

Another team poised for a deep March Madness run is Texas Tech. The Red Raiders finished as the runners-up in last year’s tournament after losing a heartbreaking championship game to Virginia.

Tech enters the season as one of the top-ranked teams in the nation, too. It listed as high as 12th in the preseason Coaches Poll.

As far as the Big 12 goes, coaches in the conference actually have the Baylor Bears ranked ahead of Texas Tech. Baylor, who’s ranked 16th in the AP, received the same amount of first-place votes but totaled nine more points than the Red Raiders.

The only other team getting more votes than WVU is Texas. Despite the Longhorns not being ranked on the national scale yet, they did receive six votes in the Coaches Poll, ranking them about 40th overall.

Fifth place is nothing to feel bad about for WVU. In a conference this strong, fifth typically puts you into the Big Dance come the spring. In fact, the Big 12 has sent at least five teams into the NCAA tournament every season for the last 11 years.

Coach Huggins provided his take on the Mountaineers’ place in the preseason poll. According to the WV MetroNews, he said:

“Picked tenth, fifth, it doesn’t matter ’til the end.”

After years of experience, Huggins knows that what the media discusses and where teams are ranked before the season starts doesn’t mean very much. Teams must block out the noise and win games over everything else.

Although it will be a long journey, WVU is in the right place to contend in 2019. Even if it may not be mentioned in the conversation as a team that can win it all, neither was Texas Tech at this point last year.

WVU basketball odds

It’s a very exciting time for the WV sports betting market. As the football season helped bring the industry to new heights, so has the addition of online sports betting apps.

The launch of both online platforms in the state have been essential:

Now WVU hoops fans will be able to place wagers right from their phones as they sit inside the WVU Coliseum.

Listed below are the Mountaineers’ odds heading into the 2019 season according to both online sportsbooks available in WV.

National Champions

  • DraftKings odds: WVU +10000
  • FanDuel odds: WVU +10000

Make Final Four

  • DraftKings odds: WVU +2400
  • FanDuel odds: WVU +2400

Big 12 Conference Winner

  • DraftKings odds: n/a
  • FanDuel odds: WVU +1800

Odds updated on Nov. 12, 2019.

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Chris Imperiale

Chris Imperiale covers sports betting and the online casino industries. He has a journalism degree from Rutgers University and was formerly on staff at Bleacher Report.

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