Good morning everybody! An 11AM tip, and that's just on the East Coast! It's 10:00 AM in Milwaukee, and the Mountaineers and Golden Eagles are going to tip things off in the first action of 2011. The Mountaineers are looking to recovering from a disappointing opening to the Big East slate, dropping their first game at home on Wednesday night to St. John's. Marquette is tipping off in conference action for the first time this season, and Buzz Williams is looking to get his squad back into the NCAA tournament. Last season, West Virginia squeaked by to a one point victory behind departed senior Da'Sean Butler's buzzer-beater. This season's team lacks a clucth player like Butler, so folks in Morgantown are concerned we could be in for a reprise of the 22-point loss the Mountaineers suffered in their last trip to Milwaukee in the '09/'10 season.
What plagues the Mountaineers?
- Scoring. There's none of it, and when it comes, it goes just as quickly. Without 3 or 4 minutes of hot shooting from Casey Mitchell and Jonnie West in the first half, St. John's would've blown out the Mountaineers to the tune of 20+ points. To hang with Marquette, the Mountaineers are going to need to run offense, and right now that's just not happening. Whether Truck Bryant can guide the team to more than listless jumpshots will be the deciding factor whether he or Joe Mazzulla get the minutes at the point. If points are really scare, we could see Huggins use both players in the same sets. Either way, on offense, expect Huggins to shuffle the deck early in search of some kind of rhythm.
- Backcourt defense. Right now, no one has looked better against the Mountaineers than a dynamic scoring guard. Cleveland State's Norris Cole and St. John's Keith Hardy both looked like All Americans as the Mountaineers struggled to get in front of penetration and clog passing lanes. St. John's guards pushed it all game and no one, save for Joe Mazzulla, had the quickness to stay in front of them. When Huggins has to look for scoring from his substitutes, he loses a lot defensively and Dalton Pepper had trouble staying on the floor as the opposition sliced around him for easy points.
I'm following along at home with you today, if my New Year's hangover permits. Stay tuned to SBNation Pittsburgh for in game updates and analysis.