KEYS TO THE WEST VIRGINIA GAME
1. Use Kareem Wright Shrewdly. Freshman C Kevin Pittsnogle, at 6'-10" and 225 lb, is the Mountaineers tallest and heaviest player. New Head Coach John Beilen essentially uses a 4-guard lineup with Pittsnogle as his lone "big man". West Virginia is predominantly a jump shooting team - over one-third of their FGAs are 3PAs and only one player (not Pittsnogle) averages more than 2 FTAs per game. Beilein posses nobody capable of matching up with Wright. Conversely, Wright will have difficulty matching up with Pittsnogle on the perimeter, whose 3PAs constitute over 40% of his FGAs. Gary Waters must judiciously use Wright to capitalize on the mismatches without leaving Wright exposed defensively. West Virginia likely will predominantly play a zone defense to camouflage their lack of size. Rutgers must work the ball into the zone and allow Kareem to punish the smaller Mountaineers with his height advantage. On defense, Waters must put Wright in the middle of a 2-3 zone defense to protect him. Put Herve Lamizana and Jason McCoy on the wings and shorten the court -- much as Waters did against Boston College in the Big East Tournament last season. Use Wright as the space eater in the middle of the zone.
2. Smother Drew Schifino. Sophomore SG Drew Schifino (6'-3" and 200 lb) is Beilein's primary offensive weapon. Schifino has attempted more than twice as many FGAs as any other Mountaineer and is averaging 20 ppg. Schifino is not a 3-point shooter -- taking less than three 3PAs per game and making only 23%. Schifino is a slasher -- he averages over 5 FTAs per game. Waters has plenty of depth at guard. Waters must run a steady stream of defenders at Schifino and wear him down. Deny Schifino the ball and force him to give it up once he gets it. Force another Mountaineer to carry the West Virginia offense. Offensively, attack Schifino off the dribble and defend him the surest way possible -- by putting him on the bench with foul trouble.
3. Reign in Jerome Coleman. Coleman has been in a horrendous shooting slump during the past month. However, the shooting inaccuracy is only the tip of the iceberg. Jerome repeatedly has shown horrendous judgement in the face of adversity. Rather than finding other ways to contribute and allowing his teamates, specifically Lamizana and Ricky Shields, to pick up the slack, Coleman has checked his conscience at the door. Against Georgetown, it took Coleman only 30 seconds to jack up of his first 3-ball -- on a 3-on-2 fast break. Coleman has not been without an accomplice in notoriety. PG Mike Sherrod, his high school buddy, has continued to feed his pal the ball to the detriment of hotter shooters. And Waters has stood blindly and watched Coleman shoot the Scarlet Knights out of game after game. I want Waters to explain how Coleman can be allowed to shoot 5 of 22 against Georgetown. When is enough? Waters needs to start acting like a coach and a leader. Basketball is a team game. This team shows only the slightest semblence of teamwork. That is on the coach. Start coaching.
4. Transition Defense. The transition offense is beyond hope. The Rutgers transition game is so bad it makes Kevin Bannon's plodding teams look downright pyrotechnic. The team is too selfish to run a fast break properly and generate easy baskets. The transition defense has become equally poor. Guards are not getting back on defense and are getting beat down the court on the wings. Time and again, opposing players fill the wings and beat the Rutgers defenders to the spot while driving for a layup. Rutgers has been outscored in transition much of the season. Even though Rutgers wins the TO battle more often than not. The Scarlet Knight offense is an unmitigated abortion. Rutgers cannot allow West Virginia to score easy points in transition because it will take Rutgers three shots to get that basket back.
5. Attack the West Virginia Zone Defense. As stated above, West Virginia likely will deploy a zone defense against Rutgers. Especially since the Scarlet Knight are bending iron and chipping plexiglass with their 3PAs. Rutgers must attack the Mountaineer zone. Use dribble penetration to get into the middle of the zone. Take the mid-range jumper. Or dish to the open big man on the baseline when the West Virginia front court defenders step up to challenge the dribbler. Work the ball into Herve in the high post. And then down to Kareem in the low post. Or take the foul line jumper. Find Shields and Herve in the short corner and enable them to attack the basket from the baseline. Rutgers will lose another winnable game if the Scarlet Knights merely settle for 3-balls.