Games That Matter - January 6, 2012 - Georgetown at West Virginia
ESPN / USA Today: 9
Preview of Tomorrow's Game:
The party continues tomorrow afternoon in Morgantown, as the Hoyas do their best to prove emphatically that 2012 will be the greatest year in the history of sports. West Virginia will obviously not be a pushover. With strength in the middle, solid rebounding, and two very good perimeter threats, the Mountaineers should present a tough challenge for the Hoyas.
This year's version of the Mountaineers performs exactly as you would expect. They are tough to beat at home; they are solid on the glass; they prefer a slower pace; they will finish with 10 or 11 Big East wins; they will make the NCAA Tourney as a 6 or 7 seed; they will lose in the second round to a team like Florida or Kansas.
More after The Jump:
West Virginia has thus far had a very up-and-down season. They've won most of the games they were supposed to win - against Miami and Villanova - and they secured a nice win at Kansas State. But the Mountaineers have also lost four games - to Seton Hall, Mississippi State, Baylor, and most surprisingly, to Kent State. Against undefeated Baylor, West Virginia proved it could hang with the big boys. In that game, West Virginia forced overtime and probably should have won the game in regulation, if it hadn't squandered a lead in the last minute.
West Virginia has lost a lot of senior leadership from last year's team. Role players like Casey Mitchell, Cam Thoroughman, Joe Mazzulla and John Flowers have all departed. While this year's team is not as deep as last year's, West Virginia still has plenty of talent. As WVU's freshmen try to figure out their roles, the Mountaineers should expect their fair share of quality wins and bad losses.
The Mountaineers are led once again by do-everything forward Kevin Jones, a 6'8'' senior, who leads the team in scoring (19.6 ppg) and rebounding (11.6 rpg). His midrange game is excellent and he shoots a solid 54.2% from the floor. This year, he's most effective on the glass - he's seventh in the nation in rebounds per game and second in the nation in offensive rebounds per game (4.7). His biggest weakness is perimeter shooting - despite leading the team with 57 three-point attempts, he shoots only 22.8% from beyond the arc. His strength is clearly in the paint, so the more Georgetown can force Jones to the outside, the less productive he'll be.
The Mountaineers' backcourt combines veteran leadership with promising youth. In his 18th season at West Virginia, 6'2'' senior Truck Bryant leads the way (18.0 ppg, 3.1 apg). A former standout at St. Raymond's High School in Brooklyn, Bryant has progressed nicely over the last few years, and he now has a decent jump shot to go along with his ability to penetrate and slash. Bryant turns the ball over too many times (three per game) and struggles from the floor (40.4%), but he's still the engine of West Virginia's offense. Against Rutgers earlier this week, Truck led all scorers with 29 points.
Joining Bryant in the backcourt are a pair of promising freshmen: Jabarie Hinds (8.2 ppg, 4.0 apg) and Gary Browne (6.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.1 apg). Hinds is a really good distributor and should be the starting point guard for the Mountaineers for the next three years. He has a decent stroke from the perimeter, but he's most effective as a guy who can get into the lane and hand the ball inside to Jones or to others on the wings. Against Rutgers, he contributed a team-high seven assists. Gary Browne does a little bit of everything. He's better on the glass than Hinds, and he's a good passer, but he's not a very good shooter.
A third freshman to keep an eye on is 6'5'' forward Aaron Brown (5.8 ppg), who has been coming on strong in the last few games. Brown is probably West Virginia's best shooter and has made a whopping 18 of his 34 three-point attempts (52.9%). Against Rutgers, Brown had 11 points, three rebounds, three assists and hit both of his three-point attempts. He has become much more of a scoring threat in the last few weeks.
And finally, no preview of West Virginia would be complete without mentioning the bruiser from Istanbul: 6'9'' junior Deniz Kilicli (11.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg). Kilicli is exactly the same player he's always been. He's built like a truck (no offense to Truck) and he's a banger in the paint. He rebounds well, shoots efficiently (51.7%) and will never take a shot more than ten feet from the basket. Somebody just needs to put a body on him and make sure he doesn't kill us on the glass.
Kilicli also looks exactly like the brawny bad guy ("Non") from Superman 2. Per Wikipedia: "The third of the Kryptonian criminals, Non is ‘as without thought as he is without voice.' At 7 ft (2.1 m) tall, Non is a formidable hulking mute, who easily matches Superman's strength but has the intelligence and sometimes curiosity of a child and communicates only with guttural grunts and growls. Though he lacks the mental ability to use his powers effectively, he does however possess the same taste for destruction as his Kryptonian companions."
The Last Time We Beat West Virginia in Morgantown
You should all remember this one. It was during the 2007-2008 season, when Jessie Sapp hit a clutch three-pointer to give us a one-point lead, and then Patrick Ewing Jr. had the best block of his career. (It wasn't goaltending.) Huggins started crying to the refs, Ewing waved good-bye to the crowd, and West Virginia fans predictably threw things on the court. A glorious outcome:
Keys to the Game:
1. Keep West Virginia Off the Offensive Glass: The Mountaineers are 25th in the nation in offensive rebounds per game (12.1). Kevin Jones and Kilicli are difficult guys to body, but we'll need to find a way. Nate and Henry and Whitt and Otto need to step up on the boards. They've been doing a nice job all season. Let's see what happens against a very good rebounding team.
2. Force Kevin Jones to the Perimeter: I'm singling out Kevin Jones because he loves shooting threes, but he's not very good at making them. We'll need to lock down on guys like Bryant, Hinds and especially Aaron Brown, but we should let Jones try to beat us with his jump shot, rather than in the paint. The more Jones shoots from the perimeter, the less he will be able to pad his offensive rebounding numbers.
3. Win the Free Throw War: Seems easy, but Georgetown has been struggling recently from the line. West Virginia only shoots 63.6% from the line (286th in the nation). If this turns out to be a foul-heavy, rough-and-tumble type of game (and I think it will), we better convert from the charity stripe. Bonus points if we can get Jones or Kilicli in foul trouble.
4. Hands Up: West Virginia averages close to 15 turnovers per game. That's not very good. Truck Bryant and the two freshmen point guards (Hinds and Browne) combine for nearly eight turnovers per contest. Clark and Trawick, combined with our length, could create problems for WVU's youngish backcourt.
Let's be honest about tomorrow's game. We probably won't win. We're riding a magical 11-game winning streak and we're due for a loss. We're also playing in a hostile environment against a team that usually gives us fits. West Virginia is coming off of a 20+ point win at the RAC and will be looking for a signature win against a Top Ten team. They should be hungry.
Having said all of that, I think we're the better team. West Virginia's lineup probably has the same experience as ours: a couple of really good seniors and several promising freshmen. They're not as deep as we are, but they're top players are just as good as our top players. And even though West Virginia usually plays us tough, it's typically because our rebounding isn't strong enough and we get eaten alive on the glass. That shouldn't be the case this year.
I love this team and I don't want the fun to stop. Next stop: Morgantown. Let's get it done, fellas.
Let's go Hoyas. Beat West Virginia.