Well, West Virginia's basketball season has been interesting so far. The 'Eers lost the exhibition game (a first in my lifetime) and then, after beating a decent Oral Roberts team, dropped a disheartening game to Kent State. The Mountaineers are in rebuilding mode this season, so there are no gimmes. Alcorn State has a new coach and fourteen new players from last season, so they shouldn't put up much of a fight. That said, the team with the best shot of beating WVU is WVU, so the 'Eers are still going to have to show up. Here's what I'm watching from my perch in section 53:
- The (hopefully) continued dominance of Deniz Kilicli and Kevin Jones. Both of the Mountaineer big men will be called on to play long minutes this season, and they will be expected to use those minutes to be a dominant forces in the paint. Against Kent State, KJ grabbed a walloping 18 boards while the Turk hauled in 15. That sort of rebounding production will be essential to being competitive this season. Kilicli struggled offensively against the Golden Flashes, but that side of his game is something Mountaineer fans know they can count on. His monster-like performance on the glass is what we hope will become commonplace this season.
- Who fills the gap in the frontcourt? After Jones and Kilicli, the Mountaineers are left grasping at straws for back-up big men. Freshman Pat Forsythe seems to be doing something right in practice, as he's the first off the bench. There's always a use for a large space-eater in the middle and right now that's about all Forsythe seems to be good for. Keaton Miles, the freshman swingman who has found a spot in the starting lineup, is built like an NBA player but has yet to put that frame to good use. It seems likely that Miles is the most likely to become a cog in the frontcourt rotation, but he hasn't shown us anything yet. Fellow freshman Tommie McCune and Juco transfer Dominique Rutledge are also in the running for some minutes, but haven't made anything happen with the few they've seen so far. The Mountaineers will need a couple of these guys to step up and fill reserve roles, but it's hard to say yet who it will be.
- Bad basketball in the backcourt. What sunk the Mountaineers the most against Kent State was terrible basketball in the backcourt. Senior Truck Bryant had a miserable game, turning the ball over six times and ruining at least another six possessions with ill advised drives into the paint. Bryant was forced to handle the ball in the second half against Kent State's press and it proved problematic for freshmen Jabarie Hinds and Gary Browne who seemed out of sync with the switch. The guards may be WVU's most skilled position group but, in order to win, they're going to have to start playing like it.
Check back to SBNation for updates and a recap after the game.