Rick Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals come to Morgantown to square off with the West Virginia Mountaineers, a team mired in an epic slump that has the blue and gold faithful concerned that the sky is falling. The Mountaineers have lost four out of the last five and played themselves firmly onto the NCAA tournament bubble. Every game from here on out is a must-win for WVU. Here's what to look for against the Cardinals:
- Seriously, who can score? West Virginia struggles to score the basketball at times, the result of skittish freshman and inconsistent upperclassmen. Senior guard Truck Bryant went from a career high against Providence to a goose egg against Notre Dame, and the Mountaineers only saw four players get in the scorebook. Kevin Jones, despite continuing an impressively heroic effort this season, has struggled of late. His inside shots are rimming out and he's having more trouble getting to the offensive glass. It's a three-man show when you add in Deniz Kilicli, but seriously, these guys need someone else to provide some help. Jabarie Hinds was that player to offset Bryant against the Irish, but can he keep it up?
- Which freshman can contribute? The second half against Notre Dame saw both freshman guards, Gary Browne and Jabarie Hinds, make key contributions to the Mountaineers' effort. Browne came off the bench to play the entire second half, and contribute with one hustle play after another despite only tallying four points. Hinds had seventeen points and was successful getting into the paint off of the dribble. If WVU is going to be able to beat the Cardinals, both of these young guards will need to play well.
- The continued growth of the Turk. Deniz Kilicli has struggled at times in his growth as a post player but has shown flashes of greatness over the last two games. Kilicli appears completely recovered from the injuries that nagged him earlier in the year, and it shows. The result is a more aggressive post presence, rolling quickly towards the basket for dunks or stepping out for his patented hook shot. Most importantly, he is finally moving with decisiveness and force. Hopefully his productivity will continue down the stretch and alliviate some of the defensive pressure from Jones.
- The schedule demands a win. The Mountaineers have have six games left, but sitting at 6-6 in the Big East, they realistically need four wins to clinch a spot in the Big Dance. The 'Eers to win all three of their remaining home games, starting this afternoon. It's a tall task, and right now things in Morgantown look bleak. The resounding question is: can Huggins get this team over the hump and into the tournament? A win today will go a long way towards that goal.