It's an early afternoon tipoff in Morgantown as the Mountaineers return to action against #8 Purdue in the Coliseum. The Mountaineers step out of conference briefly for a made-for-television showdown with a really, really good Purdue team. Robbie Hummell's gone due to injury, but this Purdue team still has a lot of weapons. Purdue comes to town following just their second loss of the season this past Thursday night at Minnesota. The Mountaineers were stymied by the Gophers themselves earlier this year, so they know the feeling. The Mountaineers, who have weathered some storms already this season come into this one riding a four game winning streak. In their last appearance, the 'Eers put together their most complete game of the season so far a 30-point drubbing of Providence. What's on my mind this afternoon?
- What's to be done with JaJuan Johnson? It seems obvious that John Flowers gets the matchup since he's going to draw the opposition's best player everytime. The last two times out Flowers has neutralized two of the best scorers in the conference in Marshon Brooks and Austin Freeman. However, unlike those two, Johnson is bigger than Flowers, and will be likely to play inside more than the swingmen Flow has been match with in the past. This means that the temptation to grab and foul is going to be there, and it's already been proven that foul trouble is kryptonite to John Flowers. Additionally, when the Boilermakers screen low, Johnson may find himself marked by Danny Jennings, Kevin Jones or Deniz Kilicli. As I type that, I know it's a recipe for disaster. Let's hope JFlow doesn't hack his way to oblivion this afternoon.
- Can the balance continue? West Virginia's team lacks a dominant control-the-game scorer. Instead, there's a vast and diverse roster of role players. When they all click together, they're hard to beat. Against Georgetown and Providence we saw what benefits can be had from a multi-dimensional attack. Against the Friars, while Flowers was having the game of his life, four other players finished in double figures. Additionally, Truck Bryant and Joe Mazzulla played smart on the court, and the Mountaineers had an assist on two thirds of their baskets. When things go south for the 'Eers, it tends to because of selfish play, quick ill-advised shots and thoughtless drives to the basket. Tonight's game will be a slow and deliberate one, so the 'Eers have to run good offense to succeed. If the Blue and Gold can do that there's a great shot that the day will end with a marquee victory in front of a national audience.
- When will this team be tested? The Mountaineers have faced some good teams this season, for sure. Until today though, they've never faced an elite team. The 'Eers need to get used to it though. The conference slate is heating up and before long, they'll have to weather a three week span against five teams in the top eleven. That's brutal. Today, the Mountaineers can try and execute against one of the best teams in the country. They need to get used to it, because from here on out nothing's going to be easy. The Boilermakers play smart and distrubute the basketball, so West Virginia will have to make good decisions on defense. A good team will take advantage of any missteps, and the Boilermakers are a very very good team.
I'm off to the Coliseum. I'll be back later for a recap of what should hopefully be one of the most fun home games of the season.