After nearly a week off, the West Virginia University Mountaineers return to action on the road against the Providence Friars. The Mountaineers are looking to recover from a dismal three game losing streak during which the team has struggled on offense. Here's what's at stake Sunday:
- Break the slide. The Mountaineers have looked awful in their last three contests, and their conference record has slid to 5-5. It's tremendously important for the 'Eers to get back about .500 with a win against the Friars. Over halfway through the conference schedule, the Big East is starting to congeal into the haves and have nots. The Mountaineers need desperately to stay a member of the first group and since Providence has only managed to notch two league wins so far, this is WVU's opportunity to do so. Notre Dame and Louisville both come to Morgantown next week, so this is WVU's best opportunity for a semi-easy win.
- Front court depth, or lack thereof. The Mountaineers lost forward Kevin Noreen for the season during their last outing against Pittsburgh. Noreen joins freshman Pat Forsythe among WVU's wounded big men, dramatically shortening Bob Huggins' bench. Because of this, look for juco transfer Dominique Rutledge to get big minutes backing up Deniz Kilicli. Despite looking lost at times, Rutledge can provide some hustle and athleticism that the Mountaineers sorely need. Another ramification of the Noreen injury is that Huggins won't have nearly as quick a hook with the Turk. Kilicli will have to produce offensively for WVU to be successful down the stretch, but he won't have anywhere to hide when his shot isn't dropping.
- The luck of Truck. At this point it's like a bad joke for the Mountaineers. Will Truck show up? If he does, things will be fine. If he doesn't, it falls on the freshmen who have been hit or miss, as one can expect from freshmen. Kevin Jones is as consistent as consistent comes, but it's hard to rely on one guy night in and night out. While Bryant always offers above average defense, his offensive game has been all over the court. The Mountaineers can beat the Friars if he has a subpar game, but it won't be pretty.