The WVU Coliseum – Morgantown, West Virginia
Time: Tuesday, 6 pm CST
Coverage: ESPN360/Big East Network/Time Warner Sports Channel 32
Following a 102-62 beat down of Presbyterian, Marquette will travel to Morgantown on Tuesday evening to open Big East conference play against long-time nemesis Bob Huggins and his highly-touted Mountaineers.
West Virginia comes in with one conference victory already under its belt after a thrilling 90-84 overtime victory over Seton Hall on Saturday. The Mountaineers are also one of the hottest teams in the country, opening the season with ten straight victories and remaining one of seven undefeated teams in division one.
Despite a perfect start, West Virginia's last three games have, without a doubt, been their most taxing. During this stretch they have beaten Cleveland State, No. 21 Mississippi, and Seton Hall. All three games were closely contested, each being decided by two, ten and six points respectively – the most impressive of which being the double-digit decision over Ole Miss. There the Mountaineers turned in a stalwart defensive performance, holding a potent Rebel attack to under 38 percent from the field.
The multi-faceted Da'Sean Butler paces this athletic West Virginia squad. The senior forward is the Mountaineers' leading scorer and should be considered their go-to guy. Butler, however, is not a traditional forward in Huggins' system. While possessing the size to impose his will down low, his unique skill-set also allows him to handle the ball and knock down the outside shot. For the season, Butler leads the team in assists and has had six multi-three-pointer games.
Ebanks is the more athletic of the two and plays incredibly long at 6'9". He alters shots, crashes the boards hard, and will even bring the ball up the floor to start the offense from time to time. His mid-range jumper must also be respected.
Jones, on the other hand, is a more conventional power forward. The sophomore does most of his damage in the paint and, thanks to his large frame, is able to create great position around the basket. Jones is a real force on the glass and can easily bully smaller opposition, something which would seem problematic for Marquette.
Quite possibly West Virginia's greatest strength is their depth. The Mountaineers could probably go eleven deep if need be, and they have a slew of different players who can affect a game.
"I am not sure that there is another team in the country that has as many high major players with distinct roles as West Virginia," said Head Coach Buzz Williams Sunday. "I think that they are extremely tough, play very hard and [simply] have nine Jimmy Butlers and one point guard."
Forwards Wellington Smith and John Flowers are both capable scorers who have started the past few games alongside Butler, Ebanks and Jones in Huggins' unorthodox five-forward-line-up. And while West Virginia's backcourt is not quite as renowned as its frontcourt, it is still very proficient. Darryl "Truck" Bryant and Joe Mazzula split time at the point as junior Casey Mitchell is more of an off-guard who provides a nice lift off the bench.
Much like Huggins' Cincinnati teams that Marquette fans remember from years past, this West Virginia team is defined by a physical, aggressive defense that gives rise to an explosive, up-tempo offense.
"They are really, really good [from the] free-throw line extended and down on both sides of the basketball," said Williams. "I think they are as good there as any team I've coached against in my career."
The Mountaineers greatest defensive asset is their length, which allows them to challenge every shot and make up lost ground quickly. More often than not West Virginia plays man-to-man, but they will also show an active 2-3 zone and their infamous 1-3-1 zone trap for a change of pace.
Marquette will certainly have its hands full Tuesday night against a bigger, deeper and more experienced Mountaineer bunch. The Golden Eagles have lost their previous two games at the WVU Coliseum and considering the miss-matches West Virginia can create, everything would seem to point to MU opening conference play with a loss.
For Marquette to have a chance against one of the Big East's finer teams, they must play near flawless basketball. The Golden Eagles must look to take advantage of their speed and exploit the Mountaineers tendency to play without a true guard. Expect Marquette to use an array of different defensive looks including presses and traps to try and change the game's dynamics.
Head Coach: Bob Huggins (57-21 3rd Season, 647-232 28th overall)
Probable Mountaineer Starters:
F – Da'Sean Butler (6'7" 230 lbs, Senior) --- (16.5 ppg, 5.9 rpb, 3.9 apg)
F – Devin Ebanks (6'9" 215 lbs, Sophomore) --- (13.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg)
F – Kevin Jones (6'8" 250 lbs, Sophomore) --- (15.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg)
F – Wellington Smith (6'7" 245 lbs, Senior) --- (6.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
F – John Flowers (6'7" 215 lbs, Junior) --- (4.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg)
G – Darryl Bryant (6'2" 200 lbs, Sophomore) --- (9.7 ppg, 3.7 apg)
G – Joe Mazzula (6'2" 200 lbs, Junior) --- (1.4 ppg, 1.6 apg)
G – Casey Mitchell (6'4" 225 lbs, Junior) --- (8.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg)
G – Dalton Pepper (6'5" 225 lbs, Freshman) --- (3.9 ppg, 0.7 apg)