West Virginia Basketball is heading to Florida for the Fort Myers Tip-Off. WVU will play SMU on Monday night and either UVA or Wisconsin on Wednesday.
West Virginia Basketball is set to play SMU in the Fort Myers Tip-Off on Monday night. All together WVU, SMU, UVA and Wisconsin make up the “Beach Division” of the Fort Myers tournament. Games will be played during the week of Thanksgiving. Monday night will feature the opening round matchups, while Wednesday, November 22nd will feature the 3rd place and championship games. Let’s check in on each team this season.
West Virginia (2-1)
The Mountaineers will head to Fort Myers with a 2-1 record overall, most recently a 13-point victory over Jacksonville State. Monday night will be WVU’s first game away from the Coliseum this season. Without Kerr Kriisa (suspended 9 games), Akok Akok (health) and RaeQuan Battle, (pending NCAA waiver) the Mountaineers will be tested by an SMU team that was picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the AAC preseason poll.
West Virginia will likely need a big game from Jesse Edwards if they are to move on to the championship of the Fort Myers Tip-Off. Big man, Jesse Edwards is currently averaging a double-double on the season. Despite the attentions that he garners from opposing scouting reports, Edwards has appeared to have found himself at home in Morgantown and is playing well. The talented Senior from the Netherlands previously played for Jim Boeheim at Syracuse.
Probably the biggest question surrounding the Mountaineers in the early going this season is just where will the points come from? Missing some key contributors in the rotation, West Virginia is in need of finding consistent scoring outside of Quinn Slazinksi and Jesse Edwards. Could the third scoring threat be Kobe Johnson? Johnson is coming off of his best game as a Mountaineer. He finished with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists in the win on Tuesday night over Jacksonville State. In addition to these 3, the other 5 scholarship players the Mountaineers have available are Josiah Harris, Seth Wilson, Ofri Naveh, Patrick Suemnick and Jeremiah Bembry.
The last time the Mountaineers early-season tournament was in the state of Florida they won the 2017 Advocare Invitational. West Virginia defeated Missouri in the championship game after a big second-half comeback was anchored by Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles Jr.
Preview of potential opponents
SMU is coming off a 13-point home loss at the hands of 13th ranked Aggies of Texas A&M. The Mustangs are led by senior guard, Chuck Harris who spent his first three seasons as a double-digit per game scorer at Butler. Zhuric Phelps averaged 17.5 points per game last season for the Mustangs. Unlike West Virginia, this SMU team has depth. They have had 10 players see the floor in each of their first four games. Additionally, 4 others have played in limited minutes this season. Rob Lanier is the head coach of the Mustangs, entering his second season with the school. Lanier is looking to improve upon a 10-22 campaign last season.
Tony Bennett’s squad is off to a 4-0 start and as of week 2 are on the outside looking in at the AP Top 25 poll. UVA beat the Florida Gators by 3 points in a neutral site game on Friday, November 10th. UVA’s tune-up for Fort Myers came on Thursday, the 16th where they held their opponent to 33 points for the game. In a game that was pretty “on brand” for the Cavaliers, they beat Texas Southern by a score of 62-33. UVA’s margins of victory in their first four games are 30, 29 (twice) and 3 against Florida. Notable returners from a season ago include Reece Beckman, Ryan Dunn and West Virginia native, Isaac McKneely.
The Badgers have already faced a couple difficult opponents and it is not getting any easier for them at the Fort Myers Tip-Off and beyond. Wisconsin will play Marquette, Michigan State and Arizona in the span of a week in early December. Their two losses this season come at the hands of the 9th ranked Tennessee Volunteers and on the road at Providence. As if all that isn’t difficult enough, Wisconsin will go up against UVA on Monday evening.
St. John’s transfer AJ Storr has led the way for the Badgers in the scoring department this year, averaging 18 points per game. Junior guard Chucky Hepburn is another name to watch for Wisconsin, averaging nearly 14 points per game. The Junior 7-footer Steven Crowl averaged 12 points and 7 rebounds in 35 contests a season ago.
Fort Myers Tip-Off Schedule
Monday, November 20th
Game 1 | Wisconsin vs Virginia | 6 PM
Game 2 | West Virginia vs SMU | 8:30 PM
Wednesday, November 22nd
Game 3 | Third Place Game | 6 PM
Game 4 | Championship Game | 8:30 PM
Catch all the action from the Fort Myers Tip-Off on FS1