The Mountaineers are in Las Vegas tonight for the first of two back to back games as part of the Las Vegas Invitational. The LVI bills itself as a "tournament," but it's not. The 'Eers are slated to face Missouri State tonight, and the No. 7-ranked Baylor Bears tomorrow, regardless of the outcome of other games. What are the odds that WVU plays two straight games against teams called "The Bears"? I don't know, but I bet there's money to be won in Vegas if you can find a way to bet on it. Here's what will be key tonight for the Mountaineers:
- Can Truck bounce back? After being absolutely awesome two weeks ago against Miami, Truck Bryant has struggled to find his shot. Back-to-back 4-for-12 outings aren't going to cut it for a player who is counted on to contribute heavily to WVU's point total. As frustrating as it is to Mountaineer fans, as goes Truck, goes this team. He has to be able to put the ball in the hole, but he can't turn the ball over either in the traditional manner or via ill advised shots. Truck needs to stop playing like he's played his entire career at WVU and start playing like a player who understands he controls his team's destiny.
- Can the freshmen reign in Weems? Kevin Jones aside, the WVU's forwards have had some issues so far this season. Missouri State is led by 6-foot-6 swingman Kyle Weems, a rangy and athletic forward who is as good on the boards as he is on the wing. WVU will have a tough time matching up with Weems, and he will probably be the responsibility of freshmen Keaton Miles and Aaron Brown. If the young Mountaineers can keep MSU's senior in check, they should be able to stifle the Bears with their pressure man to man defense. If they can't, Weems could find himself the recipient of more than a few easy put-backs, as WVU has had a hard time boxing out so far this season.
- Can the Turk continue the offensive aggression? It seems to me that sometimes junior forward Deniz Kilicli forgets how big he is and forgets that once he gets the ball in the post, he can will it into the basket. Kilicli is not the best freelancer on the team and generally has trouble creating his own shot, which is why the WVU offensive plan must be to feed him early and often. This has two desired effects. First, it gets Kilicli rolling early, something he's had trouble with. Second, it takes a bit of the pressure off of Kevin Jones who draws the bulk of the opposing defense's attention. Kilicli has to get aggressive himself, and not worrying about picking up a couple offensive fouls in the process.
Check back to SBNation Pittsburgh for more on the Mountaineers post-game.