Thursday, March 15, 2012

WVU-Gonzaga Preview

West Virginia tips off tonight against Gonzaga in the First Round Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. The Mountaineers finished the season with a 19-13 record, including a .500 year in the Big East. The Zags went 25-6, and lost to St. Mary's in the WCC final. It should be a fun, physical close game. Let's take a look at the matchup...


Advantage: Gonzaga

The Zags only average three more points a game than WVU, but are a much deeper team. They have five players averaging 8.5 points per game or better. They have also have better field goal, free throw, and three point percentages. WVU has struggled all year to keep the scoring numbers up, and are one of the worst outside shooting teams in the tournament. However, the Mountaineers will look to take advantage of their offensive rebounding abilities. Second-chance points could play a huge factor.


Advantage: WVU

Gonzaga had a better points against per game this season, but the Mountaineers played a much more difficult schedule. Bob Huggins is one of the best defensive coaches in the country, and has gotten his team to play physically, and aggressively in the half court. The Mountaineers are also very strong down low, and will force Gonzaga into tough shots. WVU is also one of the better defensive rebounding teams out there, so Gonzaga will struggle to get second chance opportunities.


Advantage: WVU

Mark Few is one hell of a coach. He has consistently put Gonzaga into the tournament, and been on top of the WCC. He typically gets the most out of every kid, even if they aren't elite recruits. Normally I would pick him in this category, but we are talking about Bob Huggins of the best all-time. Two trips to the Final-Four, and over 700 career wins. Never a bad thing to go into battle with Huggs.


Advantage: Push

The game is an hour away from Morgantown. WVU took a bus. Gonzaga flew through three time zones. The Mountaineers will bring a level of toughness that Gonzaga doesn't typically see. The Zags have the ability to hang with it, but will they? Both teams aren't afraid to play anyone, so don't expect to see wide eyes. Gonzaga does have some more experience, which should certainly help as well.


It should be an outstanding game. The Mountaineers are the lower seed, but Gonzaga will treat it like they are the underdog. A lot will ride on how Truck Bryant shoots the ball. If he can give the Mountaineers a respectable performance, then look for WVU to control. If the Mountaineers fail to shoot well, then it could be a very long night. Look for WVU to find Kevin Jones and Deni Kilicli early, and then move outside. Hard to see Jones going out with a early loss, but we'll see.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tournament Notes: Tim Higgins to Retire?

A full preview coming up tomorrow. Meanwhile, here are a few bits and pieces from Tournament Week...

-Kevin Jones gets more hardware. He was named to the USBWA All-American Team. Jones was one of ten players to be named to the list, which includes Jared Sullinger and Anthony Davis. Jones was named to the second team.

-Tommy McCune has officially left the team. The seldom-used forward will look to transfer, though no word yet on where. McCune played n just 13 games, and averaged less than a point per game.

-The Women made the tournament again this season. WVU is an 8-seed, and will play 8-seed Texas on Saturday. The game is in Norfolk, and starts at 11:10AM. The winner will most likely play Stanford.

-Tim Higgins to retire? That's the word from Bob Huggins. Check out this video about 20 seconds in. The longtime ref has been a fan favorite for years. It will be sad to see him go. In related news, I love to write sarcastically.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Jones Named 3rd-Team All America

Some actual good news regarding Kevin Jones. The Sporting News named Jones to its All American Third Team. The Wooden Award finalist certainly deserves this recognition after a fantastic final season in Morgantown.

Jones led the Big East with 20 points per-game, and rebounding at 11 boards per-game. He also finished the regular season with 20 double-doubles. More importantly, Jones helped guide his team to a .500 record in the Big East, and an 8th seed in the conference tournament. Jones will more than likely finish second in Player of the Year voting in the Big East to Marquette's Jae Crowder.

The Mountaineers face the Connecticut/DePaul tomorrow at Noon, with the winner getting Syracuse on Thursday.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Kevin Jones Gets Screwed...Also, Water is Wet

I imagine that somewhere Geno Smith is shaking his head. Smith understands exactly what Kevin Jones is about to go through. Just like Smith, Jones is about to get completely screwed by the very conference he tore his heart out playing in over the last few months. Will it matter? No. Should it matter? Oh, yes.

For Smith, it was Isaiah Pead who would be Offensive Player of the Year. Was it a good year for Pead? Yes. He rushed for over 1,000 yards, and accounted for 11 touchdowns. However, that was dwarfed by the year Smith had...the best a WVU quarterback has ever have. Smith entered the bowl season with over 3,900 yards passing and 26 touchdowns. He also guided his team to a win over Pead's on their way to the Orange Bowl. Not only were his numbers more impressive, but he was also much more valuable to his team. Cincinnati slid when they lost quarterback, Zach Collaros, not Pead.

Needless to say, Smith losing was surprising, but doesn't compare to what is about to happen to Kevin Jones. If the reports are true, and Jae Crowder is the Big East Player of the Year, then it's a smack in the face. Jones has the better numbers, and is so much more valuable to his team...and I'm not sure it's even close.

Don't get me wrong, I like Crowder. He is a fun basketball player to watch. He can go inside and outside. His energy level is outstanding. He has a high basketball IQ, but isn't the Big East Player of the Year. Hell, I'm not even sure if he is the best player on his team. Darius Jonson-Odom may have something to say about that. But, even if the argument is made that he is a more versatile player than Jones, there is absolutely no way anyone can say he is more valuable.

Marquette is still a tournament team without Crowder. Johnson-Odom, Vander Blue, Todd Mayo, Davante Gardner and company would still be a Top-6 team in the Big East. Meanwhile, WVU without Kevin Jones is DePaul. I'm not even sure the Mountaineers would be NIT-bound. Truck Bryant, Denis Kilicli, and a mound of freshmen is a recipe for disaster.

Even if you want to give the edge to Crowder due to the record, statistics would push the argument back to Jones. Points per game? Jones (20 to 17). Rebounds per game? Jones (11 to 8). Field Goal Percentage? Jones (.515 to .512). Free Throw Percentage? Jones (.77 to .74). To Crowder's credit he does have more steals and assists, but Jones also dropped 20 Double-Doubles. Crowder had 11.

The value argument and stat argument side with Jones. The record sides with Crowder. Is that enough to tilt the argument towards the Marquette man? It shouldn't, but it sounds like that is the case.

Should this be surprising? No. Jones was already not a unanimous selection for Big East First Team. How ridiculous is that? The man who led the league in scoring and rebounding (by the way, the only other two to do that won POY) wasn't a first teamer in some coach's eyes. It obviously shows that bias has certainly reared its ugly head in these selections.

Again, should this be surprising? A school that sued the league to get out early, which already had a quarterback get completely jacked out of an award? I think you all can put it together.

So, in the immortal words of Jake Taylor from Major League...there's only one thing left to do..."win the whole f***ing thing". Maybe then Kevin Jones would get some respect. Doubtful in this league, though.

WVU Announces Coaching Assignments

WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen announced the official coaching staff positions for the upcoming season. The announcement was held today, as the media finally had an opportunity to speak with some of the new staff members. The shifting included both the new and current coaches, as Holgorsen and company gets ready from Spring practices. Here is a look at the coaching staff, and their 2012 duties.

Dana Holgorsen: Head Coach
Shannon Dawson: Offensive Coordinator, Wide Receivers
Jake Spivital: Quarterbacks
Robert Gillespie: Running Backs
Bill Bedenbaugh: Offensive Line
Joe DeForest: Co-Defensive Coordinator, Safeties
Keith Patterson: Co-Defensive Coordinator, Linebackers
Daron Roberts: Cornerbacks
Erik Slaughter: Defensive Line
Steve Dunlap: Assistant Head Coach, Special Teams

-Dawson now coaches all receivers.
-Holgorsen will still have final say on offensive calls.
-Roberts moves from receivers to cornerbacks. He coached corners in the NFL.
-Dunlap gets Asst HC title, and completely takes over Special Teams

Evaluating The Players

It's been a long, frustrating year for the Men's basketball team. I guess that's to be expected when Bob Huggins has to rely on so many new players. And the kids did pretty times. The Mountaineers did manage to get to .500 in Big East play, and seem to have snuck into a Tournament birth (I'll feel a lot better with at least one win in New York). So, before March gets Mad, let's evaluate everybody's contribution this year.

Kevin Jones, F, SR: What can be said that hasn't already? Jones led the Big East in both scoring (19) and rebounding (11). He was named to the Big East First Team, and may end up being Player of the Year. This is quite a story for a player who seemed out of place as a leader in his last season. Jones was such a pleasure to watch this year, as he completely took over...and really had to take take over. Without Jones, WVU would be lucky to make the NIT.

Darryl "Truck" Bryant, G, SR: Truck had a solid final season in Morgantown. The most polarizing player possibly in WVU history hit a lot of big shots and played very good defense throughout the year. He was the most consistent shooter for a team that struggled to score. He also played much better off the ball. Granted, he did lead the team in turnovers, but also led the team in clutch shots.

Deniz Kilicli, F, JR: The "Turk" had an inconsistent season. His rebounding was adequate, not great. His scoring was solid at times, though had the propensity to disappear. And, I'm not sure there is another player in the nation that missed more four-footers than Kilicli. His free-throw shooting still needs a lot of work...well, really his whole game still needs work. The numbers did improve from last season, but still needs more consistency.

Kevin Noreen, F, r-FR: Another tough season for Noreen, whose season was cut short due to injury. Seemed to be turning into the new Cam Thoroughman...just a big annoyance for other teams. He can take a charge, foul hard, and make a fantastic pass. Struggled shooting, but that's not his game. Hoping he can come back next year and finally stay healthy.

Jabarie Hinds, G, FR: Truly a learning experience for Hinds. I can't even imagine playing PG as a freshman in the Big East, and Hinds battled throughout. He led the team in assists and steals, though both numbers slowed down throughout the year. His defensive intensity needs to improve, especially when adverse conditions set in. Hinds also needs to stay focused. Certainly a learning experience, but a lot of promise with this kid.

Gary Browne, G, FR: The other Frosh PG was all over the map this year. He hit a few huge 3-pointers, showed us that he can get to the hoop, and has a great compete level. Though, like Hinds, needs some work. Browne was simply careless with the ball too much this season, and needs to improve his shooting. What did improve was his defense and foul shooting. And, his leadership was very solid for someone in their first year. It will be fun to watch Browne mature.

Aaron Brown, G, FR: I think it's safe to say that the legs just got tired. Brown, who is one of WVU's best shooters really hit a wall late. Yet, he still shot over 40% from 3-point land. Brown needs to work on his defense if he wants to stay on the floor, as well as creating his own shot. Another freshman with plenty of promise, though.

Keaton Miles, F, FR: He started nearly every game, though only averaged marginal minutes. The reason he started? Defense, defense, defense. Why the low minutes? Offense, offense, offense. An outstanding defender, who simply needs to improve offensively to stay on the court. He did look more comfortable late in the season, but only shot 33%. He is also very shaky from the free-throw line. He is an athletic specimen, who could turn into a nice specialist for this program.

Dominique Rutledge, F, JR: The transfer really improved throughout the year. Rutledge couldn't even get on the court early-on, now looks very strong in his reserve roll. He has good rebounding skills, and is deceptively quick with the ball. He certainly needs to work on being a more consistent basketball player, and tends to get a head of himself. Should contribute the rest of this year, and could fill a nice roll in 2013.

Paul Williamson, Tommy McCune, Pat Forsythe: None played enough or healthy enough to make a serious contribution this season.