Alright. It's Big East time again. West Virginia tonight starts a grueling 18 game schedule and what will hopefully be a run towards a second straight NCAA tournament bid.
The Mountaineers are 9-2. Coached by education-optional Bob Huggins, West Virginia boasts a top-40 RPI against a solid nonconference schedule. The remark about Huggins' track record aside, this team is very competitive and display an interesting mix of John Beilein's great shooting recruits with the hard-nosed work ethic that Huggins has brought with him everywhere. Certainly a team to be respected.
As an aside, what is it with Michigan stealing West Virginia's coaches? First Beilein, now Rich Rodriguez... though the football team had little trouble without him last night (against Oklahoma, the school that the basketball team lost to in their last contest).
According to the stats run by Ken Pomeroy, WVU has the most efficient offense in the nation, averaging 121.5 points per 100 possessions. The defense is top 10 quality as well, with only 85.1 points allowed per 100 possessions. Alex Ruoff is turning into a serious player, averaging 16.1 points a game. A solid majority of his shots come from beyond the arc, though he is not quite the one-dimensional player that Colin Falls used to be.
#22 Ruoff- 16.1 PPG, 46% from three
#14 Darris Nichols- 11.3 PPG, 3.5 APG, 40% 3PT
#11 Joe Alexander- 15.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG- the closest to a true post player
#1 Da'Sean Butler- 13.0 PPG, 44% from beyond the arc (only 25 attempts)
#43 Jamie Smalligan- 7 feet tall, but plays very sparingly... only 14.1 minutes a game; could cause some matchup problems, but has been rather unsuccessful so far this year
#35 Wellington Smith- 20.0 MPG, can play inside a bit
#3 Joe Mazzula- 16.2 MPG, backup point guard
#41 John Flowers- 11.1 MPG, top freshman, shooting 62% inside the arc
In year's past, West Virginia's deep shooting has hurt us. Therefore, I doubt there will be a lot of zone played by the Irish tonight. The shooters to watch are Ruoff and, to a lesser extent, Butler. I expect that Tory Jackson will be responsible for taking Ruoff out of the game and Ryan Ayers will be the one to man up the 6'7" Butler.
On offense, Kyle McAlarney will of course be asked to provide some scoring, but he needs to take care of the shot selection. 25 footers are great when they're falling, but we cannot afford to lose possessions on ill-advised shots. Tory must be reliable with the ball and team turnovers should be held to 10 or below. Ayers can provide an extra shooter against the 1-3-1 zone and should look for his shot, but like McAlarney must not force things. The bigs will be vital as West Virginia only has one player over 225 pounds (Smalligan). When Smalligan is off the floor, Kurz and especially Harangody should take advantage and move around the smaller Mountaineer defense. Off the bench, Hillesland will be a good matchup against most of the West Virginia post players, but Luke Zeller is the only player with enough height to man up Smalligan. Hopefully the seven footer can be neutralized without having to double team or do anything too fancy. Of course, Jonathan Peoples will provide a breather for Jackson and Mac and look to hit a couple open threes.
That's about it. We need a win to keep up the streak and start the year off right. Without the students, hopefully South Bend will show up to provide a good home atmosphere.