After graciously allowing UConn and the Big East another invitation to the Big Dance, WVU has three games and the Big East Tournament to find some semblance of normalcy. Will it happen? Is 5th Year Senior a hermaphrodite? The answer to both questions is: maybe.
Of the three games remaining, there doesn't seem to be a walk-through among them. Starting with a home date against Cincinnati, West Virginia must play all of its remaining games against teams in the top-half of the conference. After the Bearcats (and the always lovable leprechaun Mick Cronin), the Mountaineers finish very strong with Georgetown in the Coliseum on Big Monday and Villanova in the Wachovia Center in the weekend of the season.
There's the chance, however small, that WVU could go either 0-3 or 3-0 over those games. 0-3 would be a complete and utter disaster, but this moment, I dare you to tell me it can't happen. If you can, you're fooling yourself. But even the biggest naysayer couldn't deny the possibility of the opposite record, a 3-0 run that would vault us back into the Big East Championship and Final Four discussion.
Essentially, it's a complete crapshoot, which isn't exactly the idea behind a basketball team at this point in the season. After the jump, I will try to make sense of what we can, and can't, count on for the rest of the season. Let's just say this was more difficult than even I expected.
- Devin Ebanks: Just a few weeks ago, seeing the words Ebanks and dependable in the same sentence seemed out of realm of possibility. But here we are, and Devin, while not being an elite scorer, has gradually taken over more responsibility on both ends of the court. It's not always flashy, but his rebounding and defense have gone a long way to keeping WVU in games. Over his last six games, he has averaged 16 points and 8 rebounds per game (and that's not even including the huge 16 rebound game he had in the first Pitt game). He's our glue.
- Bob Huggins: I thought the double technical/ejection on Monday was a master-stroke of genius. With the game already out of hand, Huggins made a very strong point to the officials that will carry over for the rest of the season. Then, he followed it up with a great press conference to put the cherry on the top. I think UConn will be the tipping point of this season. My gut is that this loss and all that surrounded it will make this a better team.
- Stopping dribble penetration: We can't do it, and I'm not sure how that's going to change. Teams like Villanova, heavy on guard play, eat us alive (I won't even get into the fraud that was Kemba Walker's game on Monday).
- Kevin Jones's shooting touch: Once a highly efficient shooter, Jones has failed to break 50% only once since January 13th. Instead of letting good shots present themselves, Jones has started to try to create more shots with defenders in front, drastically lowering his shot success rate. His shot looks the same, it's just a matter of better shot selection.
- Da'Sean Butler: Butler seems to be at a crossroads. His confidence looks damaged (especially at the free-throw line), and in two very big games this year -- Villanova and UConn -- he has been a complete ghost on the court. Of course, he's always a danger to go for 30+ points at any moment, but you don't get the sense that he believes he can do it right now. If he can have a standout game, I think the momentum could carry him through the tournament season. But if he stays cold and continues to disappear during games, WVU's prospects don't look too great.