It will be interesting to see how much resentment exists in Big East arenas and teams this season towards conference defectors like WVU. The Mountaineers host Villanova (7-5) tonight and then head for Seton Hall (11-1) on Friday. Both of these BE non-football schools probably resent our departure, and our current lawsuit against the league isn’t exactly building up peace on earth and goodwill toward men (my daughter assures me that it’s still considered Christmas season as long as our tree and house lights remain up – so look for references to mangers and wise men all the way into March).
In a Smoking Musket poll earlier this season, 1/3 of those surveyed thought WVU would be 8-4 at this point in the season and 1/4 thought we’d be right where we are at 9-3. While we don’t start conference play with tons of confidence, neither does tonight’s opponent. Villanova has lost games to St. Joseph’s, St. Louis and Santa Clara. That could mean that they’re destined to lose to St. John’s and any other team with a Divine connection. And we're almost heaven.
In all seriousness, Villanova shoots poorly. Huggs seems to think that when the Cats shoot well they’ll be difficult to play. But that’s true of everyone. While Nova is bigger than in years past and rebounding better than they historically have, they’re likely to have a tough time shooting against WVU. Why? Because defense is the one thing our young team is doing fairly well. When the Mountaineers play defense with intensity, they stay in games with teams like Baylor and Kansas State. If we can take center Mouphtaou Yarou out of the equation (13 points & 8.5 rebounds), things will be looking up for us.
WVU's big question mark is our offense, which with the exception of Kevin Jones has been inconsistent during the first 12 games. However, when it counts this team seems to be able to do everything they need to do. That is, except shoot free throws. Unfortunately it was a freshman’s miss of a free throw that was the biggest culprit in our loss to the nation’s 7th ranked team. Villanova, on the other hand, shoots lights out on their free throws (75% as a team).
The game tips off at 7 p.m. and will be televised on the Big East Network, ESPN Full Court and ESPN3.