It's senior day in Morgantown, as the Mountaineers lace 'em up one last time to square off against the Louisville Cardinals. Louisville squeaked to a 55-54 win in Louisville, but the Mountaineers expect to have more success in the loud environs of the WVU Coliseum. Here's what I'm watching from section 18:
- The Seniors. Today the Mountaineers honor five seniors who are one of the most diverse classes in school history. The departures are led by senior guard Joe Mazzulla, who has put the team on his back in recent weeks, a feat I expect to continue. Mazzulla's contributions to Mountaineer lore will already have him remembered for years in Morgantown, as he was the catlyst behind Huggins two greatest victories as a Mountaineer: '08 and '10 tournament wins against Duke and Kentucky. John Flowers is equally beloved for his hustle on the court and his quirky personality off the court. Right now there's probably no Mountaineer who is adored like Flowers, and while the kid doesn't have "NBA" written all over him, the work ethic he's displayed tells me someone will give him a shot. Cam Thoroughman also makes his final home appearance tonight, as the Mountaineers consummate "glue guy". Cam doesn't do the things that get you on Sportscenter, he just does everything else. The final two seniors, Jonnie West and Casey Mitchell aren't quite as beloved as the first three. West is a career bench player known to knock down some threes when called on, and Mitchell has been an enigma during his two up and down years on campus. While Mitchell's departure won't make anyone misty-eyed, I'd love to see him drop 30 on the Cards today.
- The Card Guards. West Virginia has trouble guarding dynamic guards, and it's even worse when there are two of them. WVU had success against UConn's tandem of Napier and Walker, but got burned by Peyton Siva and Preston Knowles in the first meeting with Louisville. Truck Bryant's defense has improved, so I don't expect the 'Eers to get pushed around quite as much as in their first meeting. If WVU can control the tempo and turn the game into a half-court grind, it heavily favors the 'Eers. If Siva and Knowles are running up and down the court all day, it will be hard to escape with a win.
- Bye-Winning. Simply put, if the Mountaineers pick up a win, they'll lock up a bye in the first round of the Big East tournament. A loss would put them in the midst of a mid-conference log jam where eight teams could potentially finish at 10-8. The Mountaineers hold tie breakers against UConn, Cincinnati, and Georgetown, so the possibility that they get the bye even with a loss still exists. Either way, win or lose today, Bob Huggins has an undermanned Mountaineer squad on the precipice of the postseason. This team may not go to the Final Four, but it has already over-achieved this season. From now on, the Mountaineers are playing with house money.
I'm off to the Coliseum, I'll be back with a recap this afternoon, hopefully with good things to report.