SCOUTING THE BLUE DEMONS
West Virginia has lost a bunch of close games and is discouraged. DePaul has done the same and is heartened. That, more than anything, describes the differences in the two programs, and where they are heading as the season winds down.
DePaul is lead by forward Cleveland Melvin, who averages 17.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Like WVU's Kevin Jones, Melvin gets a good bit of defensive attention, and doesn't always have the guard play necessary to get him the ball in the right spots to score. He's butressed by freshman Jamee Crockett, who is averagining 8.4 points as a small forward in his first year of action. Donnavan Kirk (3.5 ppg\3.8 rpg) has moved into the starting lineup rcently, and is showing some signs of promise despite his low offensive totals.
Off the bench, center Krys Faber averages 4.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. He started for most of the season, but has lost his starting spot due to head coach Oliver Purnell's emphasis on a more up-tempo pace. Moses Morgan, another player with starting experience, averages 8.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per outing. He recently returned to action after recovering from a conscussion suffered on Feb. 6.
Guard Brandon young has been a bright spot in the Blue Demon backcourt, averaging 14.8 points per game while dishing out 134 assists this season. Freshman Charles McKinney has been respectable since moving into the starting lineup, but his lack of ball movement has hurt the DePaul offense at times. Worrel Clahar provides most of the support off the bench, tallying 6.1 points per contest in 17 minutes of action.
DePaul is trying to implement more pressure on defense and more pace to its offense, but the transition has been spotty during the transition to the Purnell era. The Blue Demons will apply pressure after scores and try to make the game into a helter skelter affair, but it hasn't been able to do that consistently enough to get wins in the conference season.
Match-ups mean little in this game, as West Virginia has enough talent to outpace the visiting Blue Demons. There's only one question to be answered - is WVU going to fight as hard as it can for an NCAA bid, or will it fold its tent?
WVU 17-12, 7-9
DU 11-17, 2-14
WVU - 45
DU - 200
It seems inconceivable that a team on the verge of an NCAA bid would show decreasing effort, but that's exactly what has happened to the Mountaineers. WVU head caoch Bob Huggins, never one to shrink from saying what he feels, has been particularly blunt recently -- a number of players aren't playing with the required amount of effort, and aren't putting in enough of their own time to improve. He even went so far as to say that such players won't be around the Coliseum next year, but unfortunately, there are no late season trades or pickups to be made to boost WVU's chances this season.
The bad thing in all of this is that Huggins doesn't have five players that he can put on the floor and play. In reality, only Kevin Jones has shown the dedication and work ethic which Huggins demands. So, if nothing else, consider these last two regular season games as auditions for sticking around in 2012-13. Those that continue to provide half-hearted, inconsistent effort will be gone, according to Huggins. It's just a shame that some of them could be the reason that 2011-12 ends in anything less than an NCAA bid.
At this point, there aren't any magic wands to wave. IT would be a shock to see the Mountaineers come out and defend well, or take over the game with intensity and focus. True, there have been a handful of such late rallies in past seasons, but the evidence to support such a hope this year isn't to be found.
WVU seniors Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant have been a part of 92 WVU wins, a BIG EAST title and three NCAA tournaments, including the 2010 Final Four.
* * *
DePaul's pair of Melvin and Young is the nation's highest-scoring sophomore duo with a combined 32.2 points per game through games of Feb. 26. Ohio State's Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas are second in the country with 30.7 points per game. Through 28 games, Melvin and Young have accounted for 43.5 percent of DePaul's scoring this season.
* * *
While DePaul remains mired in the Big East cellar, its 2011-12 results are a bit of an improvement over previous seasons. The Blue Demons' 11 wins are the most since the 2007-08 squad posted 11 victories, whilethe three road wins are the most since the 2007-08 team went 3-9 on the road. The 2011-12 team is 3-6 with two regular-season away games remaining, while the team's two Big East victories are the most since a 6-12 league record in 2007-08.