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West Virginia Vs. Rutgers: Road Trip Continues For Inconsistent 'Eers

The West Virginia Mountaineers are on the road this afternoon for a game at the RAC, home of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.  The Mountaineers are coming of a disheartening performance last Thursday night against Pitt, which saw the Mountaineers struggle to score for the entire second half.  This is the last true road game of the season for West Virginia, and by this point we know what kind of team they are: an incredibly inconsistant team which stuggles to run offense and score points.  West Virginia's scrappy defense and general toughness keep them in game, but when it comes to lighting up the scoreboard, the Mountaineers have plenty of problems.  Today's game will be all about:

  • Who wants it more? West Virginia is a team that is easily distracted and their plans seem to get easily dislodged by early foul trouble.  Rutgers, led by senior forward Jonathan Mitchell, may be playing for pride by this point in the season but that doesn't make this one an easy out.  If WVU can't exert its will against the Scarlet Knights early, then this game gets tougher and tougher as the day wears on.  If West Virginia can get off to a good start, especially as it returns from halftime, it will go a long way towards making it an easy afternoon.  If it devolves into a tightly contested slug-fest, the Mountaineers could blow things at the end. 
  • What's in it with a win? While this game could be a trap loss for the 'Eers, a win goes a long way towards making people breathe easier as the team heads into the postseason.  A victory in Jersey means the Mountaineers will finish at least .500 in conference play.  It's a soft bubble without a lot of good teams this season, so as ugly as the Mountaineers have been, they're a lock for the Big Dance.  A decisive victory could build momentum going into the year's final two home games next week.
  • The Blue and Gold roller-coaster.  We know how it goes.  One or two guys will have good games, one or two will disappear and there's really no way to know which player will be which.  The true indicator of this team's success is the play of it's three guards, Darryl Bryant, Joe Mazzulla and Casey Mitchell.  Mitchell had a decent game at Pittsburgh, shooting really well for the first time in awhile.  In the meantime, Bryant's shooting slump returned and Mazzulla was only effective early in the game.  Tell me how those three play, and I'll tell you how the game goes.  If two of three can play well, Mitchell with his shooting and Bryant and Mazzulla getting into the lane, things will run smoothly.  If Bryant continues to jack up everything with little success, the team may struggle. If WVU is to have any success down the stretch, Joe Mazzulla will have to start playing like the guy who put the team on his back to beat Duke in '08 and Kentucky in '10.

I'm laying around watching it on the couch with the rest of you, so stay tuned to SBNation Pittsburgh for in-game updates.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.