Jevon Carter means everything to West Virginia’s defense this season. And the reason he ended up at the school in the first place is all chance.
Senior guard Jevon Carter is the heart of West Virginia’s pressure defense, a gameplan that has come to be known as Press Virginia the past three seasons. Carter’s steal rate ranks within the top ten of KenPom‘s database (4.6 percent), and the 6-foot-2 Carter often guards the opponent’s most offensively explosive player, using his tenacity, quickness, and innate knowledge to frustrate and confuse.
According to coach Bob Huggins, though, the reason he ended up in Morgantown was pure happenstance. Equipped with a “big cup of coffee,” Huggins was up early, scouting a summer period AAU tournament several years ago, when he stumbled on Carter — “he was on the furthest court away you could be on…this guy’s pressing at 8 AM. No one else on his team was pressing. it’s just him…pressuring people from end line to end line.”
Though he is taciturn, Huggins is one of the game’s great raconteurs, a throwback to the days when coaches could post up and hold others enthralled for hours, and how he informed his assistant coaches about the need to sign Carter is a classic Huggins’ tale: “I called my assistants and said we have to sign this guy. They’re like ‘What does he do well?’ I said, ‘Hell, I don’t know what he does well, but he sure tries to guard.'”
But can the Mountaineers escape Murray State, a No. 12 seed that is one of the field’s most popular upset picks? This has been a different Press Virginia we’re accustomed to seeing; while the team still flocks to the ball in hordes, causing a turnover on 23.4 percent of opponents’ possessions, those same squads are increasingly more comfortable initiating their halfcourt offense. In particular, teams are shooting more 3s against WVU than in past seasons (37.4 percent 3FGA rate) and converting more in the halfcourt (38 percent, per Hoop-Math.com). And WVU’s offense has staggered without mainstays like Tarik Phillip or Nathan Adrian — the squad’s free throw rate is an abysmal 31.2 percent, down from nearly 40 percent a year ago.
The Racers are a tough draw for Huggins’ squad — the OVC auto-bid winner takes a lot of threes, makes a lot of threes, and doesn’t turn the ball over (the ball hardly ever leaves Jonathan Stark’s hands, and he has a turnover rate below 15 percent) — but if the Mountaineers are to escape and reach its second straight Sweet 16, it’ll be due to Carter and his defense.