At long last, college basketball season is here. Like college football, don't be shocked to see a lot of fits and starts with games being cancelled and postponed due to COVID-19, but for now, it's full-ish speed ahead. The season kicks off Wednesday with No. 15 West Virginia facing Northern Iowa in the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic in Sioux Falls, S.D. These two teams met last year, with West Virginia winning 60-55 but Northern Iowa covering. West Virginia is the favorite again this year. Expectations are high at West Virginia. Can they get off to a good start in 2020?
Mountaineers have 4 starters backHopes are high for the West Virginia Mountaineers this season as the team returns four starters from a very good team last year. The Mountaineers went 21-10 last year and 9-9 in the Big 12, good for third place. This year, the Mountaineers will not only contend for the Big 12 title, but are a legit contender to get back to the Final Four. The only player gone from last season is Jermaine Haley, who averaged 8.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
But Haley was not even their best player. In fact, their two best players -- Derek CulverandOscar Tshiebwe -- are back. These two form one of the best front courts in college basketball. Tshiebwe, a 6'9 center, averaged 11 points and 9 rebounds last year while Culver, a 6'10" power forward, averaged 10 points and 8 rebounds per game. Both were named to the all-Big 12 team last year. Emmitt Matthews Jr. will man small forward. The 6'7 junior averaged 6 points and 3 rebounds per game last year.The backcourt will be anchored by returning shooting guard Miles McBride, who averaged 9 points and 2 assists per game. The point guard slot will likely be filled by Jordan McCabe or Taz Sherman.
As is typical of Bob Huggins coached teams, expect the Mountaineers to be a very good defensive team. Last year they ranked 16th in the nation in points against.
Green will lead PanthersThe Northern Iowa Panthers are coming off a fantastic 2019-20 campaign. They finished with a record of 25-6 overall and 14-4 in the Missouri Valley Conference, which they won. The Panthers lost two starters from that team, including guard Isaiah Brown, who averaged 9.2 points per game, and guard Spencer Haldeman, who also averaged 9 points per game. Backup center, 7-footer Justin Dahl, has also graduated.
Stats & Trends
- Panthers are 8-2-1 ATS in their last 11 Wednesday games.
Take Northern Iowa here getting the points. West Virginia will win this game but I like the Panthers to cover. The Panthers covered last year and while the Mountaineers should be better than they were last year, the Panthers should also be just as good if not better. The tandem of Green and Berbow are two of the best shooters in the country and they will be a handful for any team they face this year. On the flip side, the Panthers won't have any answers for the Mountaineers strong inside duo of Tshiebwe and Culver, But given that this is the first game of the season for both teams, after a long, long off season, teams are going to be rusty, which favors the underdog to keep it close.