Wednesday night is long gone. Now, the Pirates move on to face a foe they have not beaten since 2006 in Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers.
Here's all you wanted to know about WVU:
2011-12 record: 10-3
All-time series record: 11-16
Last meeting: 56-44 L
West Virginia has given the Pirates issues for years now because under coach Huggins, they always bring toughness to the court. Last season, the game was a little more manageable, but the Pirates couldn't make a shot.
This game is also causes one to flash back to the last time the Pirates played the Mountaineers in Newark, when Jeremy Hazell knocked down two 30-foot threes to send the game to OT and complete a memorable 10-point comeback in the last minute of regulation in a game televised on CBS.
When you talk about the Mountaineers, first and foremost are their senior duo of Kevin Jones and Darryl Bryant. Jones is leading the Big East in both scoring and rebounding, and is a terrific offensive rebounder who has stepped up his game in a big way following a very disappointing year last season. Jones is a do-it-all forward who can score either facing up off the dribble, posting up, or by catching and shooting the midrange jumper. His three-point shot is erratic, but he can hit from there too, given time and space. This should sound familiar to Pirate fans because I may as well have been describing Herb Pope.
Bryant, meanwhile, is the true definition of a combo guard. The Mountaineers tried running him at the point last year with very mixed results. This year, he's playing a little more off the ball with freshman guard Jabarie Hinds joining him in the backcourt. Bryant had a career night on Wednesday, dropping 34 on a helpless Villanova team in Morgantown, and while he doesn't often explode like that, he's a smart player who is also very tough both physically and mentally. He and Jordan Theodore know each other, so look for some great battles tonight between the two.
With Bryant and Jones leading the way, Deniz Kilicli provides a strong presence down in the paint, while Keaton Miles (a post player who is definitely more the shot-blocker type) rounds out the starting 5. Off the bench, West Virginia has three main guys that they go to in Gary Browne, Aaron Brown, and Kevin Noreen. Browne is a tough point guard originally from Puerto Rico, while Aaron Brown leads the Big East in 3-point percentage (50%). Noreen provides depth down low and from time to time, Pat Forsythe also does the same.
This is a huge litmus test game for the Pirates because the teams are eerily similar. Both have a versatile forward who ranks among the top bigs in the nation, both have senior guards who have shown great leadership this year, both have tough big men who bring some muscle, and both have several freshmen who they count on to fill in the gaps. The major difference is the pace- while the Pirates look to run when they can and shoot the three ball, West Virginia is much more deliberate in their offense, a staple of a Bob Huggins team. This is also a big game for Seton Hall. Many have called it a "must-win" and I can't say I blame them for it. With UConn coming into the Rock on Tuesday, this is definitely the easier game, although we all know it won't be easy by any stretch.
Seton Hall will win if:
- They get their mojo back. The loss in Syracuse was as ugly as can be. The number one task the coaching staff has following that game is to get the young Pirates to "fuhgeddaboudit." Seton Hall needs to get back to business and to playing their style of basketball, and that can only happen if the team truly has put that loss from Wednesday night out of their minds completely.
- Pope v Jones turns out in SHU's favor. Herb Pope has struggled in his last three games, and in the process he's lost the lead in both scoring and rebounding in the Big East to the man he's matched up with tonight. Pope has to bring it tonight, and the rebounding battle between the two teams that I think is going to be key in determining a winner essentially comes down to Pope and Jones. He's gotta be great tonight.
West Virginia will win if:
- They make perimeter shots. The Mountaineers don't shoot the ball tremendously well from deep outside of Aaron Brown, while the Pirates are among the best in the Big East at defending the three. If the Mountaineers start to make it rain, it will be one tough game for Seton Hall.
- Pope v Jones goes the other way. This is the key matchup tonight. Theodore v Bryant will also be intriguing to watch, but Pope v Jones (in my opinion) has to go the way of the team that wins in order for that team to win.
That's it for now. You can hear me tonight on 89.5 FM WSOU and wsou.net providing color commentary on this game. Tune on in! And, as always, GO PIRATES!