Mountaineer Central: First Meaningful Game
Yes, the possibility was hinted at last March, and Dids and I will damn sure fulfill it: The MWB has henceforth adopted West Virginia and their lovable band of Fighting Pittsnogles as our official Team #2, behind Thad "Whole" Matta "Love"'s Buckeyes. "Sports bigamy!", you're crying? Hey, whatever - in that case, regardless of our religious affinity in non-sporting ventures, everyone here at The MWB is now a Sports Mormon. We gots two bitches! Deal with it.
Anyways, after a couple of creampuffs, the Pittsnogles faced their first true team last night, taking on #2 Texas (It bears mentioning: I have apparently fallen so far out of step with college basketball in general that I could only name one player on the #2 freaking team in the country. And it was Brad Buckman. Please, tell me I'm not a bad person. I could have sworn Royale Ivey was still out there) in the Guardians Classic.
There is good news and bad news. The good news is, the 'Snogles led for a significant portion of the game, and almost the entire second half. The bad news is, they lost, 76-75, in large part because, after taking a 75-72 lead with 1:00 to go, they missed three front ends of 1-and-1s, any one of which probably would have sealed the game. Aside from those misses, systemic problems with the defense remain: Beilein's 1-3-1 just doesn't get stops late, and worse, it allows too many put-backs at crunch time (both Texas field goals that brought them back from 72-75 to 76-75 were of the put-back variety), because of zone blah blah no-man-to-box-out blah.
In a more macro sense, though, one has to be happy with the fact that WV outplayed the #2 team in the country for a good 34 or 35 minutes. I was apprehensive that, although returning 4 starters and 2 out of their 3 most prominent bench players, the 'Snogles lost their only two big men who actually bothered to go inside on occasion (Tyrone Salley and D'Or Fisher). Someone named Frank Young has apparently stepped into the starting PF slot, and although he's listed at a Marcus Fizer-like 6'5" (which Fizer was, and don't let anyone tell you different, 6'8" listing be damned), he is averaging 11 pts and 6 boards a game thus far. So West Virginia is trotting out a starting lineup that goes 5'11", 6'4", 6'5", 6'5", 6'11, and the 6'11 guy just wants to shoot threes. Not quite 2000 Iowa State (6'1", 6'1", 6'3", 6'4", 6'8"), but close. Offensively, if the backdoor cuts are working, things should be okay. If they're not, this team is gonna sink or swim based on how well they're stroking the 3-ball. Defensively, Beilein's gotta get these runts boxing out, because getting outrebounded 40-19 is gonna kill you much more often than not.
Dids, Torgs, Nips, anyone see the game or its highlights? You think that was a foul on Gansey at the last second?