The Mountaineers travel to Columbia, Missouri, tonight to take on the Tigers, so we thought we'd ask the folks over at Rock M Nation for a bit of insider information:
WVUIE97: First, congratulations on the Missouri football team's success this season. That said, can we both go back in time and make December 1, 2007, never happen?
CapnCribbs: Thank you, and YES PLEASE ABSOLUTELY. I don't wanna be a jerk and bring this up to you guys, but Kansas? Really? We thought you had our backs over there...
WVUIE97: Coach Haith has returned from a much publicized suspension stemming from his time in Miami. The record certainly doesn't show any ill effects, but has the team been affected at all by his absence in those games?
CapnCribbs: I think the team has been affected a bit by his absence in that the development of the team determined by "strategic playing time" wasn't exactly where Haith wanted it to be. There were plenty of times our offense couldn't get in rhythm and our defense refused to communicate, so hopefully Haith's return can help solve some of those in-game problems. As far as coaching the players themselves, I think Haith wants to be able to identify some potential problems himself (like Earnest Ross settling for jumpers instead of driving to the rim) and handle them accordingly. I know it also really bothered him that he wasn't there when Stefan Jankovic, our 6'11" SF transferred.
WVUIE97: Missouri comes into this game undefeated, but first glance at the schedule of opponents, doesn't look as if they were really tested by high competition. What kind/style of team has given the Tigers the most trouble thus far, if any?
CapnCribbs: A team with a dominant big man and decent three-point shooting will be a bit of a problem for this young team right now. Our post play (offensively AND defensively) has left a lot to be desired as we're still hoping Keanau Post and Ryan Rosburg (who is improving) will step up and be our go-to guys. As far as the shooting goes, we seem to have trouble rotating the defense when the ball moves around the perimeter, but I attribute that to having young players who just need experience in communication.
WVUIE97: WVU had a major problem scoring and shooting the ball in 2012, but through the first 8 games, the Mountaineers have managed a scoring ranking of 27th in the nation with some excellent outside shooting thus far. What can we expect Missouri to try to do to slow down the Mountaineer offense?
CapnCribbs: I think you'll probably see Missouri play with a smaller lineup for two reasons. First, I'm not sure we're ready to trust our big men well enough yet to close out on shooters when they need to. Second, our small lineup with Clarkson, Brown, Ross, Criswell, and JIII seems to be our best when going against good shooting teams.
WVUIE97: Missouri has two guys in Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown who average just under 20 points per game. Can you tell us more about what kinds of players these guys are? What specifically do they bring to the Tiger team?
CapnCribbs: Those two guys along with Earnest Ross are responsible for almost ALL of the Tiger offense thus far in 2013. Clarkson is a legit NBA prospect as a guy who has good court vision, can get to the rim, and does a good job creating his own shot and shooting off the dribble. Brown has become a more well-rounded offensive player as a guy that can shoot lights out from beyond the arc as well as drive to the hoop and draw fouls. Clarkson has in a way become the heartbeat of this team at times as his energy and ability to make a big basket carry us when the team gets a bit lethargic.
WVUIE97: Is there anyone else on the Missouri roster we should be wary of?
CapnCribbs: Earnest Ross is our third big scorer, and when I say big I mean BIG. The guy looks like a football player, he has Dwight Howard-esque shoulders. He has the ability to cut through a defense with his strength and get to the rim, but he also has a good jumpshot when he isn't cold. When he gets cold, he gets ICE cold (Andre 3000 style). Johnathan Williams III (JIII) is another guy most people are just now starting to put on their radar. The 4* freshman from Memphis has EXTREME athleticism, soft hands around the rim, and the relentlessness to get up and battle on the glass. He had 18 rebounds in a single game earlier this year, so we're enjoying watching his offensive game develop as well because I think he can be a big time college basketball player.
WVUIE97: What kind of atmosphere do you expect at the game tonight and how do you see the game shaking out?
CapnCribbs: If this game was on Saturday (and we do play on Saturday against UCLA), I wouldn't have high hopes for the atmosphere. Being that it's a Thursday night game, I expect a decent sized crowd with plenty of activity from the student section, mainly based on the fact that you guys are the first "name brand" school we've played this season. I think this game is a toss up in my eyes right now, so give me the home team in a tight one in the range of 74-71. We can't let ol' Bobby Huggins surpass Norm Stewart in career wins ON NORM STEWART COURT. Should be a good game though, looking forward to it!