West Virginia’s defense powered it to 26 regular season wins, a second-place finish in the Big 12 and a four-seed in the NCAA tournament.
The Mountaineers’ offense got them to the Sweet 16.
West Virginia shot 50 percent from the floor and 57.1 percent from 3-point range to defeat Notre Dame, 83-71, and earn a spot in San Jose.
Now, West Virginia didn’t do it on offense alone as its defense did cause the Irish trouble. Notre Dame barely cracked 40 percent shooting and turned it over 14 times. The Irish were only competitive because of Bonzie Colson’s 27 points and 17 of 17 shooting from the free-throw line.
The story, though, was West Virginia’s ability to get buckets.
West Virginia simply hasn’t been a very good shooting team this season. The Mountaineers aren’t exactly bad shooters, but they’re decidedly mediocre. From 3-point range, they convert at 36.3 percent, and from inside the arc, they’re at 50.4 percent.
Against Notre Dame, they went 8 of 14 from deep while getting just 15 of their points off turnovers. Jevon Carter went for 24, making 4 of 5 3-pointers. Daxter Miles scored 18 and Tarik Philip added 12 to give West Virginia a dynamic backcourt presence Saturday.
If the Mountaineers are making shots, they’re a totally different – and more dangerous – animal.
Teams know they have to prepare for West Virginia’s press. It’s a unique system that’s difficult to replicate. The press is hurried and unpredictable. It takes teams out of their primary actions and forces opponents to operate in uncomfortable situations. It creates 94 feet of chaos.
If that’s paired with a team capable of getting buckets at a high rate and not disproportionately dependent on live-ball turnovers, the Mountaineers just became an especially tough out.
Beyond the obvious of putting points on the board, West Virginia scoring at an efficient clip gives them more opportunities to set its press and put more pressure on opponents. A productive West Virginia offense puts its defense in the best situation to succeed.
Bob Huggins’ group was always going to be a tough matchup for teams unfamiliar with their style, but if the Mountaineers can shoot it like they did against Notre Dame, they’ll be adding a dimension that creates even further headaches for opposing coaches.