West Virginia Mountaineers vs Duquesne Dukes Preview

USA TODAY Sports

After squandering a 17-point lead to a VaTech team that lost to an Atlantic Sun opponent, there are no guarantees for a young Mountaineer Basketball squad.

"We should beat Duquesne, they lost to New Hampshire!" Before those words escape your lips, remember that many of us were 18 minutes into the first half of WVU’s last basketball game and saying roughly the same thing. "I’m not surprised we’re beating Virginia Tech, they lost to USC Upstate!"

Then back from 17 points down the Hokies came.

This early in the season it is simply too soon to look at statistics and make predictions about who beats whom and how many points a team will score (especially when you factor in scoring adjustments tied to the new rules about freedom of movement).

As well, for the second straight season Coach Bob Huggins is introducing a large cast of new players to how he wants things done. And make no mistake about it, Huggs is serious about assigning blame to players when he thinks they deserve it. He pulls very few punches when it comes to doling out accountability for a young team's lack of effort.

That said, Huggins needs to walk cautiously this season as he continues onward and upward. If he learned nothing from last year's squad, he should at least know that when unstable players are pushed too far, they will take the entire team down before bending to his will. And while all of us are willing to see last season as a minor blemish on the Huggs record (only his 3rd losing season in 28 years of head coaching), two debacles in a row will tend to refocus the problem squarely on he and his staff (who take remarkably little responsibility for losses).

It is obvious to most that Big 12 schools like WVU get more talented players than do Atlantic 10 programs. Accordingly, WVU’s challenges won’t be in athleticism. This would be an area where the hard-charging Huggins could take a player management lesson from coaches with a little more tact.

When celebrating your new recruit (Daxter Miles), it’s important not to insult your current players by stating, "We haven’t had great athleticism and I think we need to upgrade our athleticism and Dax does that for us," said Huggins. "He’s got great speed, really good quickness and he finishes at the rim. He’s very, very athletic, and the way everything is going, I think you need that. I think you need to be more athletic."

Now, I realize that in the new world of "sensitivity training" that we all might be overreacting, but if I were a current player who was recruited by Huggins, I’d be put off. While you're at it, Huggs, why not talk about how much more of a man's man this new recruit is? That should get them going!

I digress.

Where WVU will make or break this contest with the Dukes will be in the area of effort. When/if they have the luxury of a double-digit lead, they will need to keep their foot on the gas.

As for what to expect from Duquesne, they are led in scoring by guards Tra'Vaughn White (19.0 ppg) and Derrick Colter (17.5 ppg). JUCO transfer White is shooting over 60% from the field (lots of penetration for easy buckets). However, Colter can shoot "the 3" (.444 from behind the arc through three games this year - he made nearly 1/3 of his attempts in 2012-13).

As was the case last season with WVU (where Eron Harris was our leading scorer), the Dukes were led in scoring last year by a freshman…Colter. By adding another scoring threat in White, WVU’s defense will not be able to "take plays off." If they do, teams at the Cancun Challenge next week might just might be saying, "Of course we’ll beat WVU, they lost to Duquesne!"

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