Men's Basketball, WVU Sports

COLUMN: WVU’s numbers tell a much different story than its record

MORGANTOWN — If you knew nothing of the back story that goes along with the WVU men’s basketball team and simply looked at the Mountaineers’ stat sheet today, you would be as befuddled as anyone.

It’s almost as if 2+2 were to equal cat, that’s sort of the world these Mountaineers are living in.

RaeQuan Battle is averaging 29 points a game, which — technically — is good enough to lead the nation.

WVU has five players averaging double figures in scoring.

Kerr Krissa — again, technically — is tied for the nation’s lead in assists per game.

Jesse Edwards is nearly averaging a double-double at 14.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.

No way this team is 5-7 on the season following Saturday’s 91-81 victory against Toledo at the Coliseum.

“Our results don’t say how good of a team we are,” Kriisa said after scoring 12 points and adding 10 assists against the Rockets. “We can play anybody at any time. Like I said, we’ve got hoopers. We’ve just got to play together.”

And that’s the back story, because before WVU can play together, it’s got to be together.

It hasn’t been that at all. Instead, the season can be broken up in pieces, each with their own chapter.

It started as a slow crawl with a shortened roster that spent the first nine games of the season literally hanging on and usually fading out at the end of the game.

Not any longer.

WVU is a track team now, one with Kriisa behind the wheel and Battle drawing the headlines.

“It’s like I told them late in the first half, we’re in the bonus guys. What are we doing?” WVU head coach Josh Eilert said. “Let’s go downhill on them. We got RaeQuan. We got Noah (Farrakhan). Let’s put Kerr in those ball screens and get downhill.”

The next chapter will be the most interesting one with two major questions.

First, can WVU actually win big games playing at this faster pace?

Sure, it may look better to the eye. It’s always more interesting when one guy is scoring 20-some points a game, another has 10 assists, while another grabs 12 rebounds.

That’s what happened against Toledo, with Battle going for 29, Akok Akok had the 12 boards and Kriisa had the assists.

Can they duplicate that effort next week against Ohio State and then against No. 3 Houston and No. 2 Kansas and the rest of the Big 12?

The second, and maybe more important question, is what will it all actually look like when Edwards returns from his wrist injury in a month?

“I think it’s going to be a more balanced identity,” Eilert said. “You can sort of mix and match from what you saw the first nine games. They haven’t all played together.

“We’re a different team without Rae. We’re a different team without Kerr. We’re a different team without Jesse.”

The only time all of those guys have played together is in preseason practice, when only Eilert and a handful of others actually saw it.

“When they’re all playing together, it’s going to be a special unit,” Eilert said.

Until then, just questions mixed with some hope.

As in the hope the Mountaineers find a way to do more than just tread water until Edwards returns.

They have to, because the Mountaineers already have two bad losses against Monmouth and Radford.

This is no longer a win-some, lose-some situation and then bank on the overall strength of the conference to get WVU into the NCAA tournament.

WVU has nine games in January, 10 if you count Ohio State.

Go 3-7 in those games and it’s not going to matter that Edwards is coming back, at least not in the eyes of the NCAA selection committee.

Do the opposite, though, and then WVU becomes more than just a team with interesting stats.

“The more time we spend together on the court as a complete team, I feel like our offense will come together,” Akok said. “We just have to put two and two together. We’re just waiting on guys to get back, that’s all it really is at the moment.”