Tag:West Virginia
Posted on: April 30, 2011 3:18 pm

Murray transfers to West Virginia

Posted by Jeff Borzello

West Virginia missed out on Aaric Murray when he made his college choice out of high school, but Bob Huggins made up for it this weekend.

“I’m the newest member of the west Virginia team!” Murray tweeted early Saturday morning at around 3:30 a.m.

Murray was on the Morgantown campus this weekend, making his second visit after transferring from La Salle.

The 6-foot-10 Philadelphia big man had previously taken a trip to Oklahoma State, and was also considering Kansas.

He averaged 15.2 points and 7.7 rebounds during his sophomore season with the Explorers, showing a deft inside-outside game that made him a match-up problem for opponents.

Murray will sit out next season per NCAA transfer regulations, but will join a Mountaineers team in 2012 that is scheduled to lose just one player from the upcoming season.

He should combine with Deniz Kilicli to form a dominant inside tandem. If Kevin Jones withdraws from the NBA draft and spends another two seasons in Morgantown, Huggins could have a tremendous frontcourt on his hands.

Photo: US Presswire

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: April 21, 2011 10:34 am

Making the Leap: WVU's Jones tests waters

Posted by Jeff Borzello

With eight new faces and five graduating seniors, West Virginia was scheduled to undergo a complete overhaul next season.

Now, Bob Huggins might have to face it without arguably his best player from this past season. Kevin Jones, a 6-foot-8 junior forward, has decided to test the NBA draft waters. Jones will not hire an agent, though, so he can still return to the Mountaineers for his senior campaign.

“A lot of scouts are really high on him if he does come out this year,” said Gerard Jones, Kevin’s older brother and advisor.

Jones averaged 13.1 points and 7.5 rebounds last season, leading the team in rebounding and ranking second in scoring. His inside-outside skill set makes him a tough match-up for most opponents. In most mock drafts, though, Jones is not listed.

If Jones leaves, that will be the sixth member of last year’s team to move on. Guards Casey Mitchell, Joe Mazzulla and Jonnie West, and forwards John Flowers and Cam Thoroughman, were all seniors.

NBA Draft

The top returnees, outside of Jones, are guard Darryl “Truck” Bryant and forward Deniz Kilicli. Bryant is a scoring point guard who can create for himself and teammates, while Kilicli showed flashes of dominating down low. Dalton Pepper will take a bigger role on the wing, while Kevin Noreen should see additional minutes.

West Virginia’s success next season rests on the eight-man recruiting class, led by explosive playmaker Jabarie Hinds and versatile forward Keaton Miles. Hinds could start immediately in the backcourt. Aaron Brown, Tommie McCune and Gary Browne will also be counted upon to play immediately.

If Jones returns, West Virginia will have a very capable starting five. Without him, though, Huggins might have to rely too heavily on the newcomers.

Photo: US Presswire

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: April 18, 2011 12:48 pm

Can Kansas reel in another Philly big man?

Aaric Murray is leaving Philly. Where will he end up?

Posted by Eric Angevine

With both Morris twins declaring for the NBA draft, Kansas is suddenly hurting on the interior. If the current roster stands, Bill Self will have only juniors Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey alongside 6-foot-8 freshman Braeden Anderson in the post for next season. The Jayhawks will no doubt pursue other post options, including some freshmen and possibly JuCo transfers.

One name that has come up in recent days is that of LaSalle big man Aaric Murray. The 6-10 sophomore from Philadelphia has decided to leave his hometown, where he averaged 15.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game for the Explorers.

According to CBSSports.com's John Rothstein, Kansas must battle West Virginia for Murray's services. Murray came close to committing to West Virginia before he chose La Salle. He would be the heir apparent to Kevin Jones after sitting out a transfer year, but the sudden absence of size on the Kansas roster could make the Jayhawks a very attractive option as well. Murray would follow in the footsteps of other Philly giants like the Morris twins and Wilt Chamberlain should he take his game to Lawrence.

Bill Self will still need to find some depth inside for this season, but the situation may not be as dire as it looks. Recall that North Carolina lost a pair of towering twins to UCLA last season and still managed to cobble together a strong inside rotation.

Whether Murray is worth the wait is another question entirely. The Philadelphia Daily News had less-than-flattering commentary on Murray in a recent article, saying "La Salle coach John Giannini had a season-long struggle with Murray,” Jerardi wrote. “The mega-talent was not always interested in the game. In fact, Giannini said that Murray really does not like the sport. It often showed in Murray's performances. Murray had moments when he was great and other moments when he disappeared, sometimes in the same game. Giannini publicly defended his player, but anyone with eyes knew the coach was having a difficult time getting through to his star player.”

That said, the old saw is true: you can't coach height. Self already has a limited-use big man on his roster in Jeff Withey, but he'd certainly rather have two big bodies to work with rather than one or none.

If Murray is choosing between two taskmasters like Self and WVU's Bob Huggins, perhaps he knows he needs a kick in the seat of the pants. Give either of those future hall of fame coaches a year to mold a big man, and he'll either shape up or ship out permanently.

Photo: US Presswire
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 16, 2011 3:22 am
Edited on: March 16, 2011 4:53 am

Clemson looks the part

Posted by Jeff Borzello

People who thought that neither Clemson nor UAB deserved to make the NCAA tournament were hoping to see a poorly played debacle of a game better suited for the NIT.

Instead, they saw one team that can potentially upset West Virginia and, well, whatever UAB was on Tuesday.

Clemson was clearly motivated by the detractors, going on an 18-2 run early in the first half to jump out to a 25-7 lead. The Tigers never looked back from there, cruising to a 70-52 win that wasn’t as close as the score would indicate.

UAB made six two-point shots. That’s it. The Blazers were 6-for-24 from two-point range, needing to knock down 12 3-pointers to stay within striking distance (if striking distance was four possessions or so). They turned the ball over 19 times and took just seven foul shots.

It certainly wasn’t the type of effort that would make anyone think UAB deserved a bid to the NCAA tournament.

On the other side, though, Clemson certainly proved the doubters wrong. The Tigers used pressure defense and transition baskets to get off to an early lead, and then staved off UAB runs with timely steals and points around the rim. Clemson absolutely dominated the paint, getting 43 points and 17 rebounds from the post trio of Jerai Grant, Devin Booker and Milton Jennings.

Will Clemson continue to use the extra motivation and give West Virginia a run for its money come Thursday at noon? As an aside, why is Clemson even playing at noon on Thursday? A 36-hour turnaround seems unfair.

The Tigers are playing their best basketball of the season, with competitive losses to Duke and North Carolina the only negatives since mid-February. With the way they are playing defense, they can upset West Virginia.

The Mountaineers can be prone to turnovers, and Clemson’s aggressive defense will look to exploit that weakness. West Virginia is not a good shooting team at all, and can stagnate offensively. The key for the Tigers will be their ability to box out on the defensive end. West Virginia is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country, and Clemson does struggles at times to rebound consistently.

West Virginia is more physical than Clemson, so the Tigers will need to use their speed and transition game to get points. If they can force turnovers and not allow too many second-chance opportunities for West Virginia, keep an eye on this game.

Win or lose, it's tough to imagine another question concerning Clemson's inclusion in the field of 68. 

As for UAB...  

Photo: US Presswire

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 5, 2011 4:35 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2011 5:24 pm

Referee had no choice at end of UL-WVU game

Posted by MATT JONES

A huge weekend in college basketball got off to a bizarre start on Saturday as Louisville watched a FIVE-point lead disappear in the last 30 seconds to lose on the road at West Virginia, 72-70.

The final 30 seconds saw some poor execution by the Cardinals, as they missed a key free throw and allowed two open threes by the Mountaineers in order to tie the game. But all the postgame talk will focus on the final play in which Preston Knowles missed a three pointer to win and then committed a bizarre foul with .6 seconds left to allow West Virginia to win the game from the line. Here is how it went down, courtesy of the great college blog Ballinisahabit ...

The angle used by ESPN isn't the greatest here, but from the video one can get a decent perspective on what happened. In the haste of a missed jumper by Knowles, he went after the rebound with his characteristic aggression. By the time he arrived at the spot, West Virginia's Trucky Bryant had already grabbed the rebound and was attempting to move forward to take a last second heave. The action to move forward caused the collision into Knowles, who was still reaching for the ball. Knowles was not totally in control, ran into Bryant and extended his arms, causing the ball to go out of bounds.

At that point, the referee was left with a split-second decision. He could either call a foul 75 feet from the basket, effectively giving the game to West Virginia, or with the ball headed out of bounds, make no call and give Louisville an attempt at a game-winning shot with less than a second to go. Neither of those options are perfect, but the referee probably made the only call he could. It was clearly a foul and while time/situation would dictate potentially swallowing the whistle, the ball going out bounds took away that option.

Its a tough way to end the season for Louisville's gritty Knowles. But March still provides the opportunity for better endings and if the rest of his senior season provides any indication, the brain freeze in Morgantown will not be the last we hear of Preston Knowles.

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 2, 2011 10:24 pm

Mazzulla ready for another big March

Posted by Jeff Borzello

In two of the past three NCAA Tournaments, West Virginia has received an unexpected boost from Joe Mazzulla.

In the 2008 Sweet 16, Mazzulla went for 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in a win over Duke. In last season’s Elite Eight contest against Kentucky, Mazzulla again came through when it counted, finishing with 17 points in the victory.

He might be priming himself for another March surprise.

In tonight’s 65-56 victory over Connecticut, Mazzulla totaled 18 points, four rebounds and five assists and helped the Mountaineers hold Kemba Walker to an 8-for-23 shooting night.

Mazzulla had nine points in the first 6:37 of the game, going for 14 in the first half. He also knocked down a key 3-pointer right before halftime to give West Virginia a two-point lead heading into the break.

For a team that has not been as tough as previous Bob Huggins-coached clubs, Mazzulla provides a physical presence at the point guard position. He is not afraid to go into the lane against bigger defenders and is a very good rebounder for someone his size. When he starts knocking down outside shots and getting transition opportunities, West Virginia is a much more dangerous team.

Even before tonight, he had started picking up his play lately. He dished out nine assists in the weekend win over Rutgers, and totaled 16 points, five rebounds and seven assists in a home win over Notre Dame two weeks ago. In fact, in the majority of the Mountaineers’ biggest wins this season, Mazzulla has been a key factor.

Against Cincinnati earlier this season, Mazzulla finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. In the big non-conference win over Purdue, he had 10 points, four boards and four assists.

Mazzulla is not going to be the team’s go-to-guy in the postseason. Huggins has plenty of scorers, both inside and outside, that can do damage when it counts.

If West Virginia is to make another deep run, though, Mazzulla will find a way to make himself a factor. He has done it before, and it looks like he is readying himself for another surprising NCAA Tournament performance.

Photo: US Presswire

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 24, 2011 4:46 pm

Pitt and WVU make Backyard Brawl a hoops thing

Posted by Eric Angevine

West Virginia @ Pitt, 9:00 p.m, ESPN

The Backyard Brawl is one of my all-time favorite college sports rivalries. Pittsburgh and Morgantown are so close to one another geographically, but they couldn't be farther apart in the way they approach these games. At least, that's the way it is in football. With just one meeting per year on the gridiron, and overlapping recruiting grounds in the coal country, the football version of the rivalry will always be more intense.

However, I interviewed John Antonik, author of a book on WVU sports history, a while back, and he told me that the home-and-home series for hoops has had its moments as well.

"You can go back to the late '60s," Antonik said, "and there would be a West Virginia guy setting up at the free throw line and a Pitt fan would throw a dead fish on the court. There has always been great tension in that rivalry, even when the teams were just OK or the players were unknowns."

"Just OK" and "unknowns" are not words we'd use to describe this rivalry in recent seasons, and that's a good thing. Despite an 8-6 mark, WVU is coming off a huge win over Notre Dame, while Pitt is trying to shrug off a setback to St. John's at Madison Square Garden from Saturday. A win in this game won't get Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers much closer to the top of the league, but it would definitely signal the beginning of a hot streak coming along at just the right time. Such a win seems unlikely, but so did the upset of the Irish.

In essence, you just can't bet against Huggy Bear, especially in a rivalry game. Watching him battle Jamie Dixon in a coaching throwdown is bound to be entertaining, no matter which team comes out ahead.
Posted on: January 24, 2011 9:06 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2011 9:13 pm

Casey Mitchell suspended indefinitely for WVU

Posted by Matt Jones

Something is amiss in Morgantown. One day after forward Dan Jennings walked off the bench in the middle of the game, West Virginia's leading scorer, Casey Mitchell, has been suspended indefinitely by coach Bob Huggins for a violation of team rules. There has been no comment from the University as to what rule was violated and as of now, there is no word on whether he will return to the team.

The loss comes as a huge blow for a Mountaineer team that is about to embark on a crucial stretch in which it will play four ranked teams over its next five games. The decision raises questions as to what is happening in Morgantown, after a series of issues that have haunted the team over the past few weeks.

In addition to Jennings' walk-off on Sunday, 2010 West Virginia Player of the Year Noah Cottrill was suspended from the team early in the season and has since withdrawn from the University, for "conduct unbecoming of a Mountaineer.  Mitchell himself has also been dogged over the past few weeks with allegations of selfish play , finding himself on the bench during crucial late-game situations due to his inability to execute the offense properly. 

The myriad issues raise questions as to whether Huggins has lost the club going into the stretch run of the season. While the team sits 13-5, its recent loss to rival Marshall exposed the disjointed manner in which West Virginia has been playing and its inabilty to operate as a team. Huggins has complained openly about his group's lack of cohesion and the incidents over the past few weeks suggest that the problems mirror the issues currently surrounding the program off the court.

Without Mitchell, the next few games look especially daunting for Huggins' team and the game Wednesday against Louisville may now qualify as something close to a must-win. However, with two of its most talented players now suspended from the team and another openly rebelling against the coach during an actual game, the difficulties may just be getting started for the West Virginia basketball program.
Category: NCAAB
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