Friday, February 01, 2008


February 2, 2008

There probably is no other team more anxious to get back on the court than the West Virginia Mountaineers. One, it allows them to put the bad taste of Wednesday night's debacle out of their mouths. Two, it gets them out of practice and film sessions with coach Bob Huggins who undoubtedly can not be happy with his team after they were bombed by Cincinnati and his former assistant, Mick Cronin, 62-39.

Providence also needs to get back onto the floor, but this is a very quick turnaround after they literally let one slip away against Notre Dame Thursday night. The Friars were just 6-16 from the foul line in an OT loss to the Irish and a turnover in the last 20 seconds by Geoff McDermott led to two Luke Harangody free throws to force the extra session which was dominated by the Irish.

This is nearly a must-win for each team, as always, it is more important for the home team. Providence entered the season with plans to be, at least, on the NCAA bubble this year. An injury to Sharaud Curry has definitely dampened those hopes, but a loss at home to West Virginia would mean a four-game losing streak and put the Friars on the outside-looking in at the 12 teams in position to make the Big East Tournament at the halfway mark. Not exactly the bubble they were planning to be on...

For West Virginia, a loss would slide them out of the congested Big East middle and into the lower rungs of the conference, with Providence. There is little room for error in the Big East. A two-game win streak can put a team into 2nd place in the Big East, a two game losing streak and your staring at 12th or even 13th place! That is true for 11 teams...UNREAL! The life expectancy of coaches in this league is going down by the minute...

West Virginia has to put Wenesday's 10-50 shooting effort against Cincinnati behind them. Bob Huggins has spent the last couple days telling his club they are not tough enough and they need to rebound, etc, etc. With this club, that could be like trying to get blood from a stone, that is not their personality or comfort zone. However, they are not as good of a shooting team as previous Mountaineer clubs either. They seem to hit their shots in bunches and success is contagious among their players, but if they are not in a comfort zone and being forced to create, it can be an ugly scene. They also seemed to be flat coming off the agonizing loss to Georgetown the weekend prior. What they hoped to be a 2-0 homestand ended up being an 0-2 disaster.

It was supposed to come together this season for Tim Welsh. Instead, the injury to Curry, the slow development of Randall Hanke rounding back into shape and now an issue with Weyinmi Efejuku is not how his highly thought of junior class was suppsoed to respond in a season of hope. Efejuku did not get off the bench for the Friars on Thursday night in the OT loss at Notre Dame. Efejuku was scoreless in the previous game, a loss to Syracuse and Welsh has been frustrated previously with inconsistent efforts from Efejuku. Sophomore guards Dwain Williams and Brian McKenzie can be hot or cold and junior transfer Jeff Xavier the same from the arc. If PC is hitting from 3, they are very dangerous. That type of threat led them to an impressive win at UConn earlier, but its been downhill since. Without Curry, nobody seems to be able to create for others, leaving big men Hanke, Jonathan Kale and Ray Hall alone in the middle. Geoff McDermott puts forth a big effort each time out, but his limited array of offensive skills can force him to be bottled up inside.

This is a game that can really go either way. I flip-flop back and forth often with this one. I like the WVU core group of Darris Nichols, Alex Ruoff, DaSean Butler and Joe Alxander to lead the Mountaineers in a bounce back effort.

NBE Bloggers' Prediction: West Virginia 73 Providence 70



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