The West Virginia Mountaineers are in Chicago tonight to face Oliver Purnell's new-look DePaul Blue Demons. The going's been tough for this Mountaineer team who, at 0-2, are still seeking their first conference win. This team has struggled with almost everything so far this season. Scoring has been difficult and Huggins trademark man defense has been sliced and diced by a wide variety of opposing guards. With a trip to Georgetown on the horizon, if this team wants to avoid being winless upon it's return to Morgantown, it had better get one tonight.
Here's what I'll be looking for tonight:
The 2-3 zone. The Mountaineers rolled with a 2-3 zone for much of the second half against Marquette and it was, for the most part, effective. It's an almost shocking move because Huggins reveres the man-to-man game. That said, he's showed willingness in the past to go with whatever works and right now this might be his best bet. By sliding into the 2-3, he rectifies one of this teams great deficiencies: defending opposing guards. It keeps Truck Bryant and Casey Mitchell from getting overwhelmed on defense, allowing them more minutes... which hopefully will result in more points. As long as the forwards can challenge entry passes and crash the boards we could see a lot more of this zone in games to come.
- Can Truck carry the water? Bryant simply has to score. Points are hard to come by for the Mountaineers and he's one of the few on the team that can flat-out score. Problem is, sometimes that's at the expense of the rest of the offense running with any sense of precision. On Saturday, Huggins played Truck and Joe Mazzulla for the bulk of the second half and the team was finally able to put points on the board. If that continues it could be a boon for the 'Eers. With Joe to run the plays and Truck to ring the bell the Mountaineers may actually be able to outscore people.
- Did I see the Turk?!?! Deniz Kilicli has been a missing man this season, unable to get on the court and ineffective when he does. In the Mountaineers' last appearance he exploded for a career high fourteen points. Better yet, he appeared to make good decisions passing the basketball and was forceful in the paint. I don't want to sound too giddy quite yet, but this is just what we were hoping for. Then again, I remember a four game stretch this season where Casey Mitchell looked like Pistol Pete and we know what happened there.
- How does Huggs play this? Between the new defenses and the relentless line-up shuffling, Huggy Bear's got his work cut out for him. That said, I'm sure he's up for it. He took a pretty good team to the Final Four last year, I think he can get a questionable one into the Big Dance. Better get to work soon though, because a potential 0-4 hole could face the 'Eers when they get back to Morgantown.
Check back during the game for more updates.... for better or for use.