It's time for the weirdest game on West Virginia's schedule! It's the annual mid-week, mid-state showdown between West Virginia's two D1 basketball schools, the West Virginia Mountaineers and Marshall Thundering Herd. Some folks hate this game, but I'm always entertained. The Capital Classic is always unpredictable and usually memorable. Here's what I'm looking at tonight....
- The return of Tom Herrion! Marshall's first year basketball coach is most notable as being the Pitt assistant who got pelted with quarter during last year's Backyard Brawl. While it's never been possible to prove which team's fans threw the quarter, it can almost be assumed it was a Mountaineer fan. It's doubtful that this provides much additional motivation, but I guarantee it will give the announcers something to talk about all night. I bet John Sanders is on the mic, which means we're in for a whole evening of bending, bending, bending..... good!
- Marshall is led by two scoring guards, Damier Pitts and DeAndre Kane. The Mountaineers have had trouble defending dynamic guards this season, let alone two of them. Odds are John Flowers will draw Kane, and Joe Mazzulla will match up with Pitts, based on the fact Kane has six inches on Pitts. Either way, how the Mountaineers defend these two will be the deciding factor as to whether this one is tightly-contested or not.
- The other factor is that John Flowers needs to stay out of foul trouble, which he's been doing the last few games. The good folks at The City of Morgantown shot me a terrifying stat this morning: WVU is 1-2 in games Flowers plays less than 22 minutes. Stop hacking, JFlow! The Mountaineers have a Cam Thoroughman for that.
- The continuing development of Deniz Kilicli. Purdue was a big game for the Big Turk. While he only had 8 points, it's not his scoring I worry about. He can score. That's obvious. It's his ability to defend and rebound that will be what gets him on the floor for Bob Huggins and he's showing improvement in both of those areas. He didn't shut down JuJuan Johnson, but that's okay, that seems like an unthinkable thing to ask someone to do. Instead, he played smart and tough and grabbed as many boards as he could which is what the Mountaineers will need from him down the stretch. If he can defend and rebound well enough to stay on the court, the points will come.
- Finally, I'm going to use this space to say I think it's cool that Marshall's mascot is singular. That puts them in a small but elite group with Notre Dame, Army, Standford, Tulane and Tulsa. That's the only thing that puts them in the same breath as those schools. I'd remiss as a blogger not to use this space to pontificate on the truly inconsequential, and that is truly inconsequential.
Check back during and after the game, for more from SB Nation Pittsburgh!