Bob Huggins returns to a familiar court tonight to square off against his former employer, the University of Cincinnati. There's plenty at stake tonight for both teams, and this should be a grinding defensive battle. Here's what notable about tonight's game:
- Huggins versus the Bearcats. West Virginia has beaten the Bearcats the last two times the teams have met, most recently in Madison Square Garden during last season's Big East tournament. Since Mick Cronin is cut from the same coaching tree as Huggs, facing the Bearcats can be like looking in the mirror. A tough physical team that will try to disrupt everything the Mountaineers' try to do offensively. Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, their offense is already disrupted, so this one figures to be a struggle. Huggins has yet to win in Cincinnati as the coach of the Mountaineers, so hopefully tonight he can get the monkey off of his back.
- The short bench. West Virginia did a remarkable job against Louisville while managing to only play seven players. Joe Mazzulla, John Flowers and Dalton Pepper all stepped up to contribute to the scoring deficit created by Casey Mitchell's suspension. Additionally, the big men managed to stay out of foul trouble, and it The lack of depth managed to not hurt the Mountaineers, though we don't know if that can continue. If West Virginia can keep Kevin Jones, Deniz Kilicli and Cam Thoroughman out of foul trouble tonight, they should have the bodies to contend with Yancy Gates inside.
- This one is a must win. The loss at Louisville means this game becomes a game the Mountaineers must have. They're firmly in the middle of the pack in the Big East and this one will decide if they're a team with an up arrow or a down arrow. Win, and enter a three way tie for fourth place. Lose, and the Mountaineers are suddenly looking up at the league from tenth place. Oh, did I mention that three of the next five games are against teams in the Top 10? Yeah. Things aren't getting easier. There are no free meals in the Big East, but coming out of the queen city with a win would be huge.
I'll be back after the game with a full recap.