Tuesday, February 20, 2007

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: West Virginia @ Providence

February 20, 2007

The Providence Friars are 6-6 in the Big East and still hold faint NCAA hopes. With four games left, the toughest two at home (WVU and Syracuse), the Friars must win all four to have a chance at an NCAA bid, so tonight is a must win for PC, who is 5-1 at home in the conference.

West Virginia is 8-5 in the Big East and still has a shot at a 1st round bye in the Big East Tournament. The Mountaineers have set themselves up for a return to the NCAA Tournament in a season that was largely expected as a rebuilding year. Tonight is a tough challenge for WVU, who is just 2-4 on the road in conference play, and could be viewed as a post-season test.

Here are the pregame stories and previews found on the internet this morning:

Friars Home is a Tough Place to Win (Charleston Gazette)
Mountaineer Men Go To Providence for Tough Test (Register-Herald)
Preview: WVU @ PC (Providence Journal)
A Home Away from Home (Providence Journal)

West Virginia travels to Providence tonight for a Big East match-up. The Mountaineers continue to play for a Big East bye, but have a tough road ahead with the match-up against the Friars and then a trip to Pittsburgh before closing out the conference schedule at home against Cincinnati. The Mountaineers have been a great story this year under John Beilein as they were picked near the bottom of the conference after having to replace graduation losses of Kevin Pittsnogle, Mike Gansey, JD Collins, Joe Herber and Patrick Beilein, five of their top seven players from last year. Frank Young was the lone returning player with significant experience and Darris Nichols was in last year's rotation, and both have stepped up their games. Seldom-used bench players Joe Alexander and Alex Ruoff have fit perfectly into the WVU system and Da'sean Butler has proven to be one of the best freshmen in the conference. The Mountaineers still rely heavily on the 3-pt shot and their 1-3-1 zone defense, so they are always in the game, because they can score quickly from behind the arc.

Providence is a very dangerous team. Their point guard, Sharaud Curry, can score in bunches from deep or off the bounce. Their athletic big man, Herbert Hill, has blossomed as a senior as one of the best scoring big men in the nation. Hill should find plenty of room along the baseline and look for Geoff McDermott and Curry to make sure they find their big man in a position to score. McDermott should have a big night rebounding against WVU as rebounding is still an after-thought to the Mountaineers. When the ball is not in Curry's hands, turnovers could be a probelm for PC. Dwain Williams (missed last game) and Brian McKenzie need to be sure with the ball and knock down open shots that become available against the zone.

Providence is favored by 3.5 points and should get the job done at home. They will hit the boards very hard with McDermott, Hill and Jonathan Kale and are able to go smaller and more athletic if need be to counter WVU line-up and not lose much in what they want do as a team. The Mountaineers are certainly capable of bombing away and that gives them a shot in every game they play, but relying on that trait on the road is risky.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Providence 75 West Virginia 70


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