West Virginia Vs. Syracuse: Mountaineers Hope To Escape Dome Alive

MORGANTOWN, WV - JANUARY 7: Kevin Jones #5 of the West Virginia Mountaineers takes a shot during a college basketball game against the Georgetown Hoyas on January 7, 2012 at the WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, West Virginia. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

The Mountaineers try to bounce back from Wednesday night's loss against the conference leading Syracuse Orange.

Well Mountaineer fans, hasn't this week been something? First, WVU looked like world-beaters, out-toughing Cincinnati at home. Then, they looked like high-schoolers, getting run off the Madison Square Garden court by St. John's. Their prize for enduring the last week's up and downs? A date with the conference-leading Syracuse Orange under the Dome. Here's what's going down:

  • Can the Mountaineers handle the zone? West Virginia struggled mightily against St. John's 2-3, and there is no reason to expect any different when the 'Eers head up-state. On Wednesday night, WVU struggled to pass the ball, which led to Kevin Jones having an off night, and Deniz Kilicli disappearing altogether. For WVU to have any hope of even keeping pace with the Orange, they're going to have to get good looks. The way to do that is through excessive passing through the high post, in hopes of getting the ball inside. The course the WVU freshmen took against St. John's was simply to stand around and jack up ill-advised shots. This plan of attack will give the Orange run out after run out, and will lead to a long afternoon for Mountaineer fans.
  • Where is Truck? This time last season, Bryant disappeared and suffered the worst shooting slump I've ever seen. This season? Truck has had some great moments early, despite struggling with consistency. Unfortunately, the last two games have been dismal and show no signs of getting better. Truck has to snap out of it, or the Mountaineers could find themselves in a mid-season tailspin that would be hard to pull out of.
  • Will Fab Melo play? Melo has been sidelined with an academic issue, and Syracuse's zone seems a little less daunting without him anchoring the middle. Normally, I would say that means the Mountaineers are primed for an upset, but not this time. The truth is that Syracuse has been so good, and WVU looked so bad Wednesday night, that I don't think anything is going to affect this outcome. That said, if the 'Eers pull the upset behind dominant play from Jones and Kilicli, it'll be because of Melo's absence.
  • What can Brown(e) do for WVU? The freshman tandem of Gary Browne and Aaron Brown will have to play well for WVU to win, and they haven't been lately. Against St. John's they combined for a whopping zero points. For Gary, he's going to need to handle the basketball better, and eschew jump shots for passes into the post. For Aaron, as the Mountaineers only deep shooting threat, he's going to need to hit some threes to loosen up the Orange's zone.

Stay tuned to SBNation Pittsburgh and the Smoking Musket for more on the West Virginia Mountaineers.

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