Archive for the ‘WVU Men's Basketball’ Category
When the clock strikes midnight tonight, many of the top college basketball recruits in the nation will see their inboxes flooded with messages from coaches interested in their services.
As of June 15, the NCAA’s new cell phone contact rules will be in place. With the change, coaches will now be allowed to call and text message recruits (who have finished their sophomore year in high school) as much as they want.
While the change is great for coaches, who will now have the ability to keep in touch with a player as much as they want without having to worry as much about committing secondary violations, the new rule could make it difficult on the players who could have to deal with hundreds of texts coming in from potential suitors.
Some high school coaches have already started to look at ways to limit the distraction that comes with the new rule, especially once school starts back up in August.
“We will have a rule that no coaches can text (players) during school hours here,” said Huntington Prep (W.Va.) head coach Rob Fulford. “If they don’t respect that rule, they will not be allowed in our practices. We want coaches to understand how serious we are about giving the kids some space.”
Fulford, whose Huntington Prep team features the No. 1 rising junior in the nation Andrew Wiggins and top-20 senior guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes, thinks the rule could end up speeding up the recruiting process.
If nothing else, the kids will commit to see the calls and texts not come in as much.
“Some coaches will abuse the rule, but it will be more evident on who the kids are serious about,” Fulford said. “If they’re responding to you, they’re interested. If not, how long will it take (the coaches) to take the hint?
“I think kids will commit sooner to eliminate the issue if it gets out of hand.”
West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said that, when the rule goes into effect, it will be important for him and his staff to make sure they’re talking to the players that they’re interested in, but not to go overboard.
“There’s a saturation point,” Huggins said. “You may get a kid every once in a while that is enamored because you call him every day, but most of them get as tired of answering it as you do of talking to them.
“All they’ve got to do is turn the phone off.”
The rule change could be annoying at first for the players, but once it’s been in effect for a while, there’s a good chance that things will be (relatively) back to normal. I mean, is there really a group of kids today that can handle being bombarded by text messages as much as high school students?
But with all the changes to the process that are taking place one thing will remain the same.
“I tell my guys (that) you control the recruiting process, you’re the one in charge,” Oak Hill Academy (Va.) head coach Steve Smith told Sports Illustrated. “It’s not the other way around. If you want to limit contact, tell them. If you want to limit their calls, fine. They’re going to do whatever you tell them to do because they want you and you’re one of their top recruits.”
After what seemed to be possibly a season-changing win in overtime over Providence Sunday, West Virginia fell once again to Notre Dame, 55-51.
The Mountaineers have now lost four of their last five games, and are 6-6 in Big East Conference play with six games remaining on the schedule. Assuming they need nine or 10 conference wins in order to have a pretty good chance of getting an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament.
So, that means WVU will need to find a way to win at least three of the final six games, which includes road trips to Notre Dame and Pittsburgh (two teams it has lost to in the last two weeks) and home games against Louisville on Saturday and Marquette next Friday before wrapping things up with DePaul and South Florida (on the road).
Will it be tough for the Mountaineers to build a good enough resume for a bid? Yes.
Are they dead yet? Let’s see what junior forward Deniz Kilicli had to say after last night’s loss:
“We’re not dead yet. We lost the battle … but still, we’re not dead.”
Kilicli also had some good things to say after the game about what Bob Huggins told them in the locker room about the importance of wearing the West Virginia jersey:
”In this state, there’s nobody else other than us. There’s no pro team and people love us. Half of those guys (in the stands) are coming from southern West Virginia – that’s about three hours that they’re travelling (to get to Morgantown). Coal miners go down into the mines and come back up to watch us play. Everyone is the state works so hard to get what they deserve and when we don’t dive to the ball … it looks bad. I think it’s disrespectful to the fans and I apologize for that.
We should think about that tonight, everybody should. Some fundamental issues, you can go over it and you can change it, but when we have issues in our hearts, that’s a bad thing.”
As Bob Huggins always says, the Big East is a hard league. The Mountaineers will have to find ways to win tough games if they want to get back to the NCAA tournament, but it’s definitely still a possibility.
With that said, Saturday’s game against Louisville will be huge.
But more on that later, let’s get to some tidbits from last night’s game …
- First, for those of you on Twitter, WVU head coach Bob Huggins got Twitter today. It took him about two hours after his first tweet to get up over 2,000 followers.
- Kevin Jones had 14 points, which means his streak of 20-point games ends at nine. That’s just one short of tying Jerry West and “Hot Rod” Hundley’s record of 10.
- Jones finished with 14 and 12 rebounds, giving him his 16th double-double of the year and 28th of his career.
- After scoring 32 against Providence, Truck Bryant was held scoreless against Notre Dame. It was the sixth time in his career he failed to score a point, and the second time it has happened against the Irish.
- With that said, Truck needs 77 more points to reach 500 for the season, and that will put him and KJ in the record books …
- With 77 more points, Bryant and Jones will become the 7th duo to score more than 500 points in a single season in WVU history. It will be the fourth time it has happened in Huggins’ five years at West Virginia.
- The other groups to do so were: Fritz Williams, Carl Head and Deacon Reaser (1967); Lowes Moore and Mo Robinson (1978); Kevin Pittsnogle and Mike Gansey (2006); Joe Alexander and Alex Ruoff (2008); Alex Ruoff and Da’Sean Butler (2009); Da’Sean Butler and Kevin Jones (2010).
- After last night’s loss, WVU is 4-3 in games decided by five points or less.
- Deniz Kilicli has now played at least 25 minutes in six-straight games. He’s played at least 30 minutes eight times this season. His career-high in minutes coming into this year was 27 (last season against South Florida).
- Although he failed to score a point, Truck shot just one time in the second half and finished with a career-high eight assists.
- When West Virginia took a 41-40 lead on a Kevin Jones 3-pointer, it was the first time the Mountaineers had led since it was 12-10 (it took 23:54 to get the lead back).
Follow Daily Athenaeum Sports Editor Michael Carvelli on Twitter.
There’s never a dull weekend in the Big East Conference.
WVU continued its current slide, losing its second game in a row but head coach Bob Huggins doesn’t know if it should’ve ended the way it did. Down two with the final seconds of the game ticking off the clock, junior forward Deniz Kilicli appeared to have the game-tying bucket thanks to (what looked like) an obvious goaltending call on Syracuse sophomore Baye Moussa Keita.
But it wasn’t called. They called it a block, WVU got the ball back and Kevin Jones missed a last-second three to win the game to give the Orange a win.
Huggins, who is always great from some good quotes, had this to say on his postgame radio interview:
“Inexcusable. Our kids played their hearts out. We should be in overtime.”
- WVU has Pitt tonight in the Backyard Brawl. A loss would give the Mountaineers their first three-game losing streak since 2007 (Huggins’ first season). Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail put into perspective just how rare of a situation it is and how Huggins and some of the players think they will be able to handle the adversity following the tough loss.
- One more WVU tidbit, from the Interwebs. CBSSports.com kept West Virginia in its Top 25 (and one) as the “and one,” at No. 26 following losses to St. John’s and Syracuse.
- UConn got freshman point guard Ryan Boatright back after being held out for the second time this season due to an investigation by the NCAA. His return didn’t prove to be as big as it thought, though, as the Huskies lost to Notre Dame, 50-48. After missing three games, Boatright played 30 minutes and scored six points with two assists. His lawyer fired back at the NCAA for the way it handled the situation and released confidential information from the case.
- Off the topic of the Big East but on topic of the NCAA, New York Times Op-Ed columnist Joe Nocera wrote another fantastic piece on the flawed system that is the NCAA. After writing about Boatright last week, he tackled the case of Harvard women’s basketball player Temi Fagbenle.
- Back to the Big East now … Pitt continued to get back on track since it got Tray Woodall back in the lineup. After beating Providence Wednesday for their first Big East win, the Panthers took down No. 10 Georgetown Saturday. Woodall missed 11 games due to injury and Pitt has won two of three since his return. It is averaging more than 76 points per game with him and just a little more than 66 per game without him.
- After beating WVU Wednesday night, St. John’s almost pulled off a big upset over No. 6 Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium (which, if you haven’t heard, can’t get students to come to games anymore). Although Duke came away with the end, it sounded different in the postgame news conferences.
- A couple other interesting results: No. 18 Marquette was able to find a way to beat Villanova Saturday, and Cincinnati lost its third straight (this time to Rutgers). I can only assume Mr. Cronin isn’t too happy with where his team is heading right now after playing so well after the suspensions from the fight against Xavier earlier in the year.
Dunk of the Weekend:
Syracuse sophomore Dion Waiters had a monster dunk against WVU Saturday, check it out …
For TV fans:
Not related to Big East, WVU or college basketball at all really, but this is a fun thing to check out for hoops junkies who love 90’s television as well (like me).
I’m usually the type of person who counts down the days until the weekend, but there’s something different about this weekend that has me even more excited for it to get here than usual.
And no, it’s not because this little guy is going to be making a trip to the Coliseum Saturday afternoon.
Some of the nation’s top high school basketball players will be heading to Morgantown from all over the East coast this weekend to take part in the 2012 Mountaineer Shootout at University High School.
I will be covering it for the second year in a row, and after getting to see what it was like last season, I can’t wait to get back to cover it again starting Friday night. Last year, prestigious programs like Oak Hill Academy (VA) made the trip to Morgantown and players like Quinn Cook (freshman PG at Duke), Omar Calhoun (will be playing at UConn next season) and current West Virginia freshman point guard Gary Browne – among many more – took part in the festivities a year ago.
With schools like Huntington Prep (WV) and the Tilton School (NH) coming to town, this year’s Shootout will have no shortage of talent, that’s for sure.
So let’s take a look at the schedule and some of the top players who will be taking the court at UHS this weekend.
Friday, Jan. 20
4:30 p.m. – St. Mary’s Ryken (MD) vs. South Shore (NY)
6 p.m. – Bishop Kearney (NY) vs. Huntington Prep (WV)
8 p.m. – Tilton School (NH) vs. Villa Angela-St. Joseph (OH)
9:30 p.m. – Withrow (OH) vs. Arlington Country Day (FL)
Saturday, Jan. 21
11 a.m. – Bishop Kearney (NY) vs. University (WV)
12:30 p.m. – St. Mary’s Ryken (MD) vs. Magnolia (WV)
6:30 p.m. – Withrow (OH) vs. Morgantown (WV)
8 – Villa Angela-St. Joseph (OH) vs. Huntington Prep (WV)
9:30 p.m. – Tilton School (NH) vs. Arlington Country Day (FL)
TOP FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH (all rankings come from ESPNU.com)
The highest-rated recruit of West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins’ next recruiting class, Macon will be in Morgantown this weekend.
His coach at Huntington, Rob Fulford, coached junior forward Deniz Kilicli (as well as Noah Cottrill) in high school at Mountain State Academy in Beckley, W.Va. and called Macon a mix of Kilicli and WVU senior Kevin Jones. At 6-foot-8, 210 pounds, Macon runs the floor well for a big guy and is an extremely athletic post player that the Mountaineers will be able to use next season when it loses Jones to graduation.
Macon has already signed his National Letter of Intent to play at WVU next year.
Huntington Prep (WV) F Andrew Wiggins (No. 1 prospect in 2014 class, considering Florida State & Kentucky)
It’s not very often that you get to say you’re going to get to watch the best player in the country.
But that’s exactly what fans might get to say when they watch Huntington Prep (WV) sophomore forward Andrew Wiggins play this weekend.
As I said, he’s ONLY A SOPHOMORE, but he has already been touted as the next big superstar in high school basketball and has been called “the Canadian LeBron James.”
That’s pretty high praise for a kid who will be turning 17 in about a month.
Wiggins has an incredibly smooth offensive game and can get to the rim just about whenever he wants to. When he gets into the paint, just wish defenders good luck trying to stop him.
I could go on, but I’ll just let the tape talk for me.
Tilton School (NH) C Nerlens Noel (No. 2 prospect in 2013 class, considering UConn, Georgetown, Kentucky, Kansas and Florida)
And Wiggins won’t be the only player in Morgantown this weekend ranked in the top five of his recruiting class.
The Tilton School (NH) will bring in an extremely talented team led by junior center Nerlens Noel. Standing at 6-foot-10 with a remarkable 7-foot-3 wingspan, Noel is one of the most feared shot blockers in the country and has the ability to alter any shot.
While he’s a game changer on the defensive end of the floor, his offensive game has gotten better since the AAU circuit and he’s extremely fun to watch play.
Tilton School (NH) G Wayne Selden (No. 10 prospect in 2014 class, considering WEST VIRGINIA, Kentucky, UConn, Pitt, Missouri)
Noel’s Tipton School teammate Wayne Selden is a player Mountaineer fans should definitely keep an eye on this weekend.
The 6-foot-5 sophomore guard has an offer from West Virginia and, although he’s just a sophomore, might be the most talented guard to take the floor at University High.
He can slash, get to the rim with ease and shoot it really well from the perimeter. He’d really be a good fit in a WVU uniform in a couple years for Bob Huggins. With Selden and Noel, the Tipton School’s two games this weekend (much like Huntington Prep’s) are definitely must-see basketball.
Arlington Country Day (FL) G Torian Graham (No. 38 prospect in 2012 class, considering North Carolina St., Xavier, Villanova, Baylor, Arizona)
Graham is the highest-rated recruit in the senior class who will be here this weekend and he plays alongside of fellow senior Jordan Goodman (considering Georgetown, Rutgers, West Virginia, Kansas State and Texas Tech).
He’s an athletic guard who has started to become more and more of a scorer as his high school career as gone on.
The form on his jumper is a little unorthodox but it works and for a smaller guard (6-foot-4), he can play above the rim.
OTHERS TO WATCH:
Arlington Country Day (FL): F Junior Etou
Bishop Kearney (NY): C Chinoso Obokoh
Huntington Prep (WV): G Javontae Hawkins, F Negus Webster-Chan, F Stefan Jankovic, G Xavier Rathan-Mayes
Morgantown (WV): F Nathan Adrian
South Shore (NY): F Shamiek Shephard, G Terrence Samuel, G Doudmy Saint Hilaire
Tilton School (NH): F Georges Niang, C Goodluck Okonoboh
Withrow (OH): F Devin Williams
One of the most puzzling things about this West Virginia team this season has been freshman forward Keaton Miles. A talented, highly touted recruit out of the prestigious Lincoln High School in Dallas, Miles was really the only freshman who received a lot of minutes who hadn’t started showing a lot of progress.
Of all the full-time starters in the nation (players who had started every game their team has played), Miles came into Saturday’s game against the Scarlet Knights averaging the second-fewest minutes per game in the country (13.7).
Miles passed that mark in the first half against Rutgers and played a career-high 29 minutes. He had his best game in a Mountaineer uniform, scoring six points and grabbing four rebounds while dishing out a team season-high seven assists (tying freshman PG Jabarie Hinds’ mark he set twice this season).
For what it’s worth: the Mountaineers are 9-1 when Miles plays more than 15 minutes in a game and they’ve won all three games Miles scored more than five points in.
After having a Plus/Minus (WVU’s points scored minus opponent’s points scored while Miles was on the floor) of -6 in West Virginia’s last three games, he finished +38 against the Scarlet Knights Saturday.
When he was in high school, I got to see about four or five of Miles’ games on TV and was extremely impressed. He was comfortable on offense and defense and made a big impact every game. That wasn’t the case so far this year.
Was it hard for Miles to stay positive when he was struggling? Yes, of course it was. It would be for any freshman.
But what got him to where he could have a game like he did Saturday, and what will help him continue that throughout the rest of the season?
“(Seniors Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant) just tell me, ‘Keaton, you have to go out there and play. Just play your game. We know you can play. We’ve seen you play.’ Even when I was down and I didn’t believe in myself, they believed in me,” Miles said after the game.
- West Virginia forced 19 turnovers against Rutgers. The Mountaineers are now 12-0 when they force 15 or more turnovers in a game.
- With is “quiet” 24 points and 14 rebounds, Kevin Jones recorded his third-straight 20-point game. It was the first time in his career he was able to accomplish that feat.
- Jones had 12 career double-doubles entering this season, Saturday was his 12th of his senior year.
- More KJ stats! Jones is the only player in the nation who averages more than 20 points and more than 10 rebounds per game. West Virginia is 6-1 when he goes for at least 20 and 10 and the only game it lost was to No. 4 Baylor (15-0 this season).
- WVU is 7-1 when Truck Bryant makes more than three 3-pointers in a game.
- The Mountaineers are 9-1 at the Coliseum now. They’re beating opponents by an average of 15.3 points per game at home.
- West Virginia is 7-1 when it scores 80 or more points in a game (once again, the only loss was to Baylor).
- The win over Rutgers was WVU’s 6th win by 20 or more points of the season. The Mountaineers have won 46 games by at least 20 points since Bob Huggins became the school’s head coach.
- West Virginia’s next game is against Marshall in the Capital Classic. The series has been closer than you think. Although WVU has won eight against Marshall since 2000, the average margin of victory for the Mountaineers is just a little bit over three points (3.16) and the Herd is coming off a four-point win last season.
- As of Sunday night, the Mountaineers are No. 12 in the RPI and Marshall is No. 33, which makes the game a quality NCAA tournament resume win when the end of the season comes around.
14 of the Big East’s 16 teams are in action this weekend.
Friday night, in typical Big East basketball fashion, No. 24 Seton Hall fell to South Florida to give the Pirates its first loss as a ranked team since Feb. 4, 2001 when they suffered a 70-64 loss to Rutgers.
With seven more games on the slate Saturday and Sunday, it looks like it could be shaping up to be yet another exciting weekend of basketball in the Big East.
No. 17 Connecticut vs. Notre Dame (Saturday at 11 a.m., ESPN2)
Villanova vs. Cincinnati (Saturday at Noon, ESPN3)
Pittsburgh vs. No. 25 Marquette (Saturday at 2 p.m., ESPNU)
Rutgers vs. West Virginia (Saturday at 2 p.m., ESPN3)
DePaul vs. No. 15 Louisville (Saturday at 4 p.m., ESPN3)
Providence vs. No. 1 Syracuse (Saturday at 6 p.m., ESPN3)
No. 11 Georgetown vs. St. John’s (Sunday at Noon, ESPN3)
Game of the Week: No. 17 Connecticut vs. Notre Dame
A Connecticut team that, up until its win over West Virginia in Hartford earlier in the week, had been struggling to find leadership will be traveling to face a surging Notre Dame team Saturday afternoon.
After going just 8-5 in their out-of-conference schedule and looking like they would be struggling mightily with the loss of its best player, Tim Abromaitis, the Irish have won three of its first four Big East Conference games. The biggest of those wins came last Saturday in the form of a two-point win over then-No. 11 Louisville in the KFC Yum! Center.
While Notre Dame will clearly have its work cut out for it this weekend against arguably the most talented team it has faced up to this point in the season, if it can get good performances from sophomore guard Jerian Grant (who has scored 14 or more points in six straight games), this should be a very fun game to watch.
Possible Upset? DePaul at Louisville
Although it started the season 12-0, Louisville has suffered a tough slide, losing four of its last five games. The Cardinals are coming off of easily the worst loss of those four, a 90-59 dismantling at the hands of Providence (No. 120 in the RPI) and they now host a talented DePaul team that features two of the better young players in the conference.
Sophomores Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young are averaging more than 35 points and nine rebounds per game.
It could be a long shot, but if Louisville comes out flat like it did against Providence and the Blue Demons can play up to their potential, this could possibly be one of the biggest Big East upsets of the season.
Team that needs to play well: Pittsburgh
The Panthers put on an abysmal display of basketball in their 62-39 loss to Rutgers. They made just 12 of 57 attempts from the field (21 percent) and have yet to win a Big East game this season.
If any team in this conference needs a win, it’s this one.
And a win over No. 25 Marquette could be just what Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon’s team would need to start getting back on track before the season gets even more ugly. Success against the Golden Eagles will start with the Panthers’ senior guard, Ashton Gibbs.
In 31 minutes against the Scarlet Knights, Gibbs scored a season-low eight points on 2-11 shooting. Pittsburgh needs Gibbs to play well if it wants to compete this year in the Big East.
Players to Watch: Cleveland Melvin (DePaul) and Maalik Wayns (Villanova)
Both DePaul and Villanova have the chance to score upsets this weekend.
We’ve already talked about the Blue Demons’ matchup against Louisville, and Villanova takes on Cincinnati.
Since its brawl with Xavier, Cincinnati has won eight out of nine games and beat Georgetown on the road Monday night.
Melvin and Wayns will probably be the two players who will be the biggest factors for their teams if they want to pull of these wins. at 6-foot-7, Melvin has an interesting mix of athleticism and can score and rebound with the best in the conference.
Wayns can score off the dribble and is averaging close to 17 points per game to go with 4.6 assists per game.
After decommitting in March of 2010, Huntington Prep (W.Va.) forward Elijah Macon made it official a few weeks ago that he would, in fact, be attending West Virginia next year to play basketball for head coach Bob Huggins.
“I’m very relieved so I can start focusing more on school and just getting better for when I do get to West Virginia so I can come right in and contribute,” Macon said. “Now I’m just focusing on getting better and getting in better shape.”
Macon, the No. 44 player in the class of 2012 according to ESPNU, was considering Louisville, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Kansas State after opening his recruitment back up. But in the end his final decision went back to the struggles he had early in his high school career.
Following his sophomore year, Macon’s grade point average had dropped below a 2.0 and, thanks to that, a lot of teams began to slowly quit pursuing him because of the risk involved in offering someone with academic concerns.
West Virginia was the one school that stuck around the whole time.
“It was big that they stayed around and still wanted me even though my grades were messed up,” Macon said. “The fact that they stayed around and didn’t leave like some other schools did, that really gave them some big bonus points.
“Plus when I was on campus for my visit, it just felt like home. I felt like I was wanted.”
Macon said all of his academic troubles are behind him now though after taking summer classes his junior year while he was still enrolled at Marion Franklin High School in Ohio.
The 6-foot-8 forward is currently in his first season in Huntington where he’s getting to play alongside of some of the most talented players in the country, including Missouri signees Stefan Jankovic and Negus Webster-Chan. He feels that elevated competition is going to help his game tremendously once he gets to Morgantown and begins playing at the college level.
“It’s obviously a privilege to be here and I’m just taking full advantage of it to where I can come down here and make myself a way better player than I was before I got here,” Macon said. “Competing against those guys is definitely going to make me better because there’s no slacking off in practice. You have to compete all the time.”
Of course, Macon admits one of the biggest factors in making his decision to be a Mountaineer was getting the chance to play for Huggins, who is the fourth-winningest active coach in the country.
Getting to play for a coach with the track record of West Virginia’s head man will give him a way to continue getting better and achieving his goal of one day making it to the NBA.
“I know he’ll turn me into a pro,” Macon said of Huggins. “When I get there I’m going to work really hard to get to my dream and me going with him and knowing what he can do for me, it’s just really exciting.”