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Marquette Vs. West Virginia: Mountaineers Look To Avoid Total Collapse

Well, it all comes down to this. When WVU squares off at home against Marquette tonight, it might as well be a tournament game because if the 'Eers lose, they become prohibitive longshots to make the big dance, and deservingly so. In their last contest the team failed to emerge from the locker room after halftime and the 'Eers were run off of the court by Notre Dame. Unfortunately, Marquette is an even tougher opponant and WVU has it's work cut out for it with the season on the line. Here's what I'm watching tonight:

  • A marquee match-up in the paint. Kevin Jones, the only bright spot on the Mountaineers this season, will continue his quest for Big East Player of the Year, but tonight he'll square off against another one of the conference's elite big men: Jae Crowder. Crowder and Jones will go hard in the paint tonight and whomever wins that battle will have given his team a huge leg up. Mountaineer fans have watched in horror as Jones has been swallowed by opposing defenses lately who go all out against him. That focus wouldn't be too big of a deal except that none of the freshmen have managed to pick up the slack. Tonight, he's going to need to succeed against Crowder and get some help for WVU to win this one.
  • Swagger, or lack thereof. John Radcliff made a great point this morning with this post on The Smoking Musket. Essentially, he says, this team looks like it's having no fun at all, and I agree with him. Ever since this slide began the Mountaineer have played like prisoners being nervously led to their doom and it's showed. The second they get down, you can see them hang their heads. Wednesday night's game against Notre Dame is the perfect example of this. The 'Eers started the second half down two points, but by the time they were down ten, the game was over. It didn't matter that there was still almost an entire half to play, because the Mountaineers had quit by that point. I'm terrified that's going to happen again tonight.
  • Can Huggins shuffle his way out of this mess? Head coach Bob Huggins has shuffled his lineup each of the last two games, and drastically revised his substitute rotation. Unfortunately for Huggs, he only has so many guys and none of them seem to be able to do much. He gave serious minutes to walk on Paul Williamson and freshman Tommie McCune against Notre Dame, after each had barely managed to sniff the court up to that point. I don't think Huggins was rewarding them, however, and instead punishing Aaron Brown and Keaton Miles for not being able to push through their current setbacks. Mountaineer fans can take solace in the fact that if there is a lineup that will work (a big "if," admittedly), Huggins will find it.
Stay tuned to SBNation Pittsburgh and The Smoking Musket for more on the West Virginia Mountaineers.

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