The West Virginia Mountaineers take the court at the WVU Coliseum this afternoon to face off against Big East bottom feeders, the South Florida Bulls. The Mountaineers are looking to bounce back from their no good awful very bad Wednesday night at the Charleston Civic Center with a decisive victory against a bad team. West Virginia experimented with a week out of conference, and it was agony and ecstasy. After beating a top ten Purdue team to vault the 'Eers into the Top 25, the Marshall Thundering Herd caught the 'Eers in the ultimate trap game, a foul-laden affair which resulted in the Mountaineers playing their worst basketball of the season. This afternoon (as an undercard for the AFC Title Game) things look to get back to normal in Morgantown. What I'm watching:
- WVU squeaked by the Bulls last year in Morgantown, but with Dominique Jones gone, this team isn't as good as that one. Led by Gus Gilchrist, South Florida has struggled mightily this season, owning only one conference win. The Bulls have lost to all sorts of teams this season and West Virginia will look to capitalize on a slumping team. Gilchrist and fellow big man Jarrid Famous give the Bulls a physical presence that will force West Virginia's trio of Kevin Jones, Deniz Kilicli and Danny Jennings into playing tough in the paint. Kilicli has been coming on strong offensively, but his own defensive liabilities kept him off the court in crunch time against Marshall. I'd like to see the Turk keep making strides on D.
- I feel like a broken record writing these game previews sometimes, but when it comes to talking about the Mountaineers, it comes to talking about offense. Namely the overwhelming desire of some 'Eers to not run it. West Virginia has struggled to get good offensive sets, and the Marshall game was dictated by aimless turnovers and missed opportunities to score. While West Virginia has the talent to beat the Bulls playing sloppy, I would much rather see some smart play. The truth is, West Virginia just doesn't have a guy who can do it alone. The offense has to set somebody up to score, whether it be Casey Mitchell, Kevin Jones, Truck Bryant or John Flowers. These guys need an opening to score and right now they can't do it without making crisp cuts and sharp passes. If they slack on either, the looks just won't be there.
- The Big East schedule is a long one, and right now WVU has miles to go to become a tourny lock. Part of getting that done is winning the games you should, especially on your home court. West Virginia has a great opportunity to pick up thier fourth Big East win today and they need to take advantage of that. The next week holds a mid-western road-trip to #15 Louisville and back to Huggins' old stomping ground in Cincinnati. To split that trip would be considered a win, so WVU needs to establish itself as two games above .500 today. That gives them the breathing room to not make both road games' "must wins". I'd tell you what lies ahead on the schedule after that road trip but, to be honest, I just don't want to talk about it. Too scary.
I'll be back postgame to offer my thoughts. I'm off to the Coliseum where I'm going to spend the rest of the afternoon wondering about how the Steelers will deal with the Jets' pass rush....