Spanish tour not offering much insight into WVU’s improvement


Regardless of what happens in Sunday’s 2 p.m. game against the Barcelona All-Stars, the best thing that’s come from West Virginia’s tour of Spain is probably the food.

By now, WVU players realize why Morgantown needs an authentic Spanish eatery.

Anything else that you want to take out of the Mountaineers’ 65- and 28-point victories in their first two exhibition games is almost pointless.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said after Friday’s 115-50 victory against CC Basketball Academy. “A long, long way to go.”

West Virginia’s best work will come behind closed doors once the fall semester begins, when the team goes back to two-hour-a-week workouts until the season opens.

That’s when freshman Oscar Tshiebwe will get back into the mix after sitting out the tour with visa problems.

Side note: WVU officials have said Tshiebwe’s visa restrictions will be taken care of by November, when WVU travels to Cancun to play in two regular-season games.

The fall semester could also mark junior-college transfer Ethan Richardson’s enrollment at WVU, although the chances of that actually happening are questionable.

Aside from the who’s-there and who’s-not factor, the biggest thing fans look for is which player(s) are going to make that big-time jump in production?

We’re not talking about guys putting up better numbers simply from being a year older and getting more playing time.

We want to know if there is someone on the roster who makes a noticeable jump, like how Kevin Jones, Joe Alexander and Frank Young once did.

Going by the two exhibitions, it’s difficult to go all-in on any one guy.

Logan Routt has certainly stepped up his game. For those who shake their head on Huggins handing the former walk-on from Cameron a scholarship this season, the 6-foot-11 forward has answered the call.

He’s averaging 15.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in the two games — granted against inferior competition — but he’s a completely different player than he was just a season ago.

The question will be Routt’s playing time once the season begins.

With Tshiebwe back in the mix, is Routt going to get 20 minutes per game? It’s really hard to answer “yes” right now, regardless of how much he has improved.

Guard play is really hard to judge, because West Virginia’s guards have been way more athletic than the opposition in Spain.

That won’t always be the case once the season begins, so to sit here and say, “Man, Jordan McCabe and Chase Harler are killing it for WVU,” would be speaking out of context.

Jermaine Haley has been a great rebounder, but we already knew that. McCabe has 18 assists in two games, but we already knew he was a good passer.

Harler, Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil have combined for 12 3-pointers, but do you think Kansas and Baylor are going to leave them as open as the Spaniards have so far?

If that trio continues to make shots then WVU has a real shot at making some noise this season.

If they struggle, well ….

Emmitt Matthews Jr. and Deuce McBride are the leaders in the clubhouse as far as eye-opening performances.

Matthews is stronger and taller than last season and has put that to good use.

He scores through contact and isn’t afraid to mix it up and dunks in traffic.

Matthews is just 2-of-12 so far from 3-point range, but is 12-of-15 inside the arc, meaning the strength of his game could be in transition and getting to the basket.

McBride, on the other hand, simply hasn’t looked like a freshman. The young man from Cincinnati has shown flashes of a pretty good overall game.

He’s 2-for-3 from 3-point range. He’s defended and scored and generally has made the right plays on offense and defense, which doesn’t come as much of a surprise to Huggins.

“I don’t know where or how, but he is going to play,” Huggins said before the team left. “He’s tough enough, physical enough, athletic enough that I wouldn’t be afraid to put him on any of the (small forwards) we’re going to play.”

But, to go ahead and pencil this team in for the NCAA tournament may be premature at this point.

As Huggins said earlier, “We’ve got a long way to go.”

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