"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Can WVU get the ball up the court against relentless MU pressure?

Yeah, we may get killed tonight, but ...

One of the first things we preach in political campaigns is, “the other side has problems too.” It’s easy when working until 2 a.m. every night as an election approaches to see everything wrong with your campaign and panic. However, you don’t see the problems in the other campaign headquarters, where things are just as frantic.

Well, we have some real problems tonight, but I really think the 6th ranked Mountaineers do too.

WVUs "guards" face a nightmare against MU

I just can’t get the image out of my mind from last year of DJ simply applying a one-man press against Darryl Bryant, the only West Virginia player who even resembles a point guard, and taking his dribble 88-feet from the basket and laying it in, then taking a charge from him 87-feet from the basket to get the ball back again. I honestly felt sorry for Bryant as Huggins called him to the bench time and time again to tell him to stop handing DJ the ball.

Well, the news flash is that WVU’s guards, if you can really say they have any, has been much shakier this year handling pressure, and MU is even better at stealing the ball from opponents. In fact, only five major conference teams (Syracuse, Missouri, Clemson, Minnesota and Oregon State) steal the ball more often than MU does this year. Last year MU was not nearly as good at swipes, ranking as only the 17th best major conference team at stealing the ball.

Marquette repeatedly picked WVU clean last year despite the fact that WVU was actually a respectable 42nd best in the land at not turning the ball over (17.9% of all trips down the court resulted in turnovers). This year they are already having much more trouble handling pressure, turning the ball over 19.4% of their trips down the court, only the 95th best total.

So to summarize, MU used the quickness advantage at guard to pick WVU of the ball at will last year, and this year MU is much better at stealing the ball and WVU is much worse at protecting the ball.

More important is how many of the turnovers tonight are on steals, which lead to fast break baskets at the other end while WVU big guys try to get back up the court.

If Bryant was that rattled last year, he could have even more trouble handling MUs pressure this year. His turnover rate of 23.4% is already a bit high (even the somewhat wild DJO is only 20.6%, and Cube and Mo are below 20%). But at least last year if he got rattled Alex Ruoff could come move over to point guard and run a steady, albeit slow, point. This year if Bryant is rattled then Huggins option at point is Joe Mazzula, whose turnover rate of 39.2% makes him one of the “generous” guards in the country. Huggins may need to play one of his 6-7 guys at the point, and I’ll take our guards matching up against them 25 feet from the basket over our front line having to stop them at the rim any day.

In short, the #6 team in the land is bringing a very shaky ball-handling team into a game against one of the best six teams in the country at stealing the ball. If this game is played within 20 feet of the hoop, WVU wins big. But if they get rattled a long way from the hoop like last year, MU could pull the shocker.

The obvious issues

While a lot of things point to a WVU blowout, here is the hope I hold out on each.

1. We can’t win because www.kenpom.com selects this as one of only two virtually unwinnable games for MU, predicting a 10-point WVU win and only a 15% chance of an MU upset. Yes, but … www.kenpom.com’s biggest miss on MU last year was picking WVU to come into the Bradley Center and win by 6 points – actually a 22-point win for MU.

2. We can’t win because our guards will finally be exposed since WVU dwarfs MU as the 1 through 3 position, with an average edge of 6 inches, 3.5 inches and 4 inches respectively at those spots. Yes, but … while WVU is one of only four teams to be in the top 25 in height at all three of those positions, the other three are Duke, Syracuse and Florida State, the latter of which MU destroyed for 30 minutes before running out of gas at the end of a three-day tournament in Florida. If MU was good enough to whip FSU for that long, which then went into Atlanta and beat Georgia Tech, then the same type matchup against WVU gives us a chance.

3. Morgantown has been home jobbing visiting teams for decades, even setting "a record for phantom fouls," according to one TV announcer when VCU went there years ago. Yeah, but ... just be happy the game is on TV so the refs know they are being watched. Just kidding on that last one guys, I love all referees!

Yes, we are going to see a lot of dunks between stars Da’Sean Butler (6-7) and Kevin Jones (6-8), as well as the other three big guys all getting at least 50% of the minutes in Devin Ebanks (6-9), Willington Smith (6-7) and John Flowers (6-7). It will be a blowout if played within 20-feet of the basket on both ends, but if we rattle them a long way from the basket, we will have a chance at the biggest Big East season opening upset since UConn came to Milwaukee on January 3, 2006.


James said...

I think your analysis was quite good. I will say that Marquette CANNOT start off poorly. If we play like we did vs. Wisco in the first half then we are toast.

John said...

I hear Huggy is now a canonized saint in Morganton. Also heard pigs are flying and hell is freezing. I am just hoping no one on Marquette gets injured. The Eers are pretty worked up from the game last year.

The Chuter said...

R U the nutjob who called Butler the 2nd best offensice player in the nation? BIG TIME missed free throw! Or R U the guy who thought Jim Mac was better than Jimmy Chones.

James said...

Neither, asshole. Learn to do some better research next time. And don't fuck with me this morning, I'm pissed.