WVU - Gonzaga Preview: Offseason Review And Midnight Mulligan

Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE

The Mountaineers start their hoops season with a tough road game against #21 Gonzaga. Here's your offseason refresher course for the good guys and bad guys.

Time to dust off that old Mike Gansey jersey because it's basketball season again. With the football team dropping four in a row, it couldn't come at a better time. I'm rocking my Wellington Smith 35 blue for contractual surname obligations and it feels pretty good. Before we dive into the first matchup, let's get a quick look at the roster differences from last year.

Gone:

1. Kevin "Basketball" Jones (Graduation)

Nothing else needs to be said. He lead the team last year in points, rebounds both sides of the ball, blocks, and heart. There was no question that he was the driving force and it'll be interesting to see how the team operates without using him as a crutch. There was a lot of standing around watching KJ work during major conference games last year, so maybe the team as a whole will look more fluid and stop being so dependent.

2. Daryl "Monster" Truck (Graduation)

You could write a thesis about Truck Bryant and still not get it all out. He certainly had his vices with leading the team in turnovers and just low basketball-IQ plays, but he still accounted for 24% of the teams point production and it will be interesting to see where the production comes from with 52% of the total points last year leaving with KJ and Truck gone. Mountaineer basketball can be split into eras using the point guard at the helm (mostly due to the fact they stay for all four years) and the Truck Bryant years have ended. We shall see if Gary Browne or Juwan Staten grow into the assist-turnover ratio Mr. Consistency that this team will need throughout the year.

3. Pat Forsythe (Transfer to Akron)

A few things to note about Forsythe in the linked article above:

Forsythe appeared in seven games as a freshman with the Mountaineers, averaging 2.1 points and 3.4 rebounds before suffering a season-ending stress fracture in his right ankle....

As a result of the injury, Forsythe was granted a medical hardship waiver by the Big East Conference for a fifth season of eligibility at West Virginia. That status, however, will not transfer with him to the Zips.....

Though he will formally join the Zips late next week, Forsythe must return to Morgantown, W.V. at least one more time. He was arrested on charges of using stolen debit cards in March — being arraigned and released on a $2,500 bond — and has a court date in October.

I was never really sure if he had the athleticism to compete in the lane against UConn-type front courts and that right ankle never really let him get off the bench to plead his case. The depth would have been nice to see going into this year, but if he was going to be hurt along with the extra weight from carrying around all those debit cards, then might be better to let him go.

4. Tommie McCune (Transfer to Oakland)

McCune came into WVU as a near-Top 100 Rivals recruit in 2011 and also was in trouble involving debit cards and shoplifting. He never saw the court even with Forsythe and Noreen out with injuries due to team suspension, so this isn't really much of a surprise. Stay out of trouble, kids.

4. Pawwwwwwwwwwwl Williamson (Transfer to Fairmont State)

Boo. Paul was fun to root for during blowouts and you can't really blame him for wanting to go play elsewhere. I will miss the obligatory "Put in Paul" chants for the West Virginia native.

Additions:

Recruits.....

Name Hometown High school / college Height Weight Commit date
Eron Harris
SG
Indianapolis, IN Lawrence North 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) 160 lb (73 kg) Oct 2, 2011
Scout:3/5 stars Rivals:3/5 stars ESPN grade: 85
Terry Henderson
SG
Raleigh, NC Neuse Baptist Christian 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) 180 lb (82 kg) Oct 24, 2011
Scout:3/5 stars Rivals:3/5 stars ESPN grade: 91

Harris, Henderson, and the redshirt Freshman Aric Dickerson will probably not get a whole lot of playing time, but we will definitely see plenty of Juwan Staten after his 16 point, 6 assist, 0 turnover night against Glenville State.

Afterthought: Ron Everhart moved this offseason from head coach at Duquesne to assistant coach for your West Virginia Mountaineers.

Actual Preview Time!!!

"This is the worst defensive team I've ever had in 30 years. We don't get the help, we don't get the loose balls. We don't do the things we've done for years and years and years."

We all remember the blowout in the Consol Energy Center. We all remember how it felt like we simply couldn't make shots all season long and Gonzaga literally couldn't miss. Fortunately, Huggins has been playing the game game on loop for the past three weeks in the practice facility, so the returning players certainly will have some fire in their bellies. There will be a lot of familiar faces for the Zags tonight and we're definitely going to have John Stockton shoved down our throats while his son is still a junior and gets plenty of playing time.

Keys to the Game:

1) Contain Elias Harris, Przemek Karnowski

We're going to have an international battle under the rim after Gonzaga went and got a sick 7-footer from Poland, Przemek Karnowski, to duo with their Wooden Award preseason lister, Elias Harris. In a postgame recap of the Zag's 103-65 opener against Southern Utah on Friday, SBNation Seattle went on to give WVU some bad news:

"There were a lot of positive takeaways from the game, none more so than performance of Polish big man Przemek Karnowski. The 7'1 freshman exceeded most expectations, finishing with 22 points and only one turnover in just 20 minutes of play. Better yet, he was able to run the court faster than you would expect a man of his size to be able to. His passing ability came as advertised as Karnowski was able to find the open man when a double team hit."

This kid is the real deal and Deniz/Domo/KNoreen are going to have their hands full with what might be their toughest front court test until the Mountaineers run into Jeff Withey and the Fightin' Rock Chalks. This midnight game is not going to look like the last meeting in Pittsburgh with 17 threes being fired, but more of an inside game with a major big man matchup. It will be crucial for Huggins to find a happy medium of closing out the guard play while providing help backside against Karnowski and Harris. We'll see how well our boys have ran the help side drills. If lacking, don't be surprised if WVU moves to a zone.

2) Smart Ball Possession

While Truck and his 70 turnovers from last year have left the team, we still have Kilicli's 75, Browne's 70, and Jabarie's 64. While a lot of those were from lack of experience, we are still facing a Gonzaga team with the same very talented guards. Pangos with his 40 steals and near 2-1 assist turnover ratio has only improved from last year as a freshman. While Huggs seems to be confidence about his front court, this will be quite a barometer to see if we can hang with the big boys.

3) Play Huggins Basketball

While the score was not close enough to put pressure on the little things, Southern Utah was only out-rebounded 33-29. As the days of KJ getting second, third, and fourth chances are gone, the Mountaineers need to fill the role of a fourth all time career rebounder throughout the lineup. All summer, these big men have been boxing out and hitting the gym, but you need the court presence to know where to be when and to always "put a body on a body." We may not be a Big East team anymore, but that doesn't mean Huggins will change philosophies. Force bad shots, deny passes along the outside, and do not allow Gonzaga offensive rebounds. In other words, bring a mouth piece and an extra large chip on your shoulder.

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