That the Mountaineers must slow All-ACC power forward Bonzie Colson is obvious. The question is how. Colson, a finalist for the Karl Malone Award as the nation's best four man, blends an array of skill sets into a complex game. The junior is a workhorse in the paint, using his strength and a surprisingly agile 6-8 frame to create looks around the rim. But Colson also shows excellent body control and understanding of angles, helping him excel offensively even against larger defenders.
On the outside, the All-ACC First Team selection can hit the spot up jumper, and often uses that threat to force opposing players to defend it while maneuvering them into a desired position on the floor. From there, Colson can create driving opportunities with head and ball fakes or jab steps, creating a damn-if-you-do-or-don't issue for foes.
"Bonzie is one of the best in America in creating angles for himself and being able to use his body to score tough buckets," said West Virginia assistant coach Erik Martin, who works with the Mountaineer forwards and centers. "Either way, you have to keep your body between him and the basket and don't give him angles. If you've seen Bonzie play, he really scores the majority of his points within five to 10 feet. He can stretch it and shoot threes, but our bigs, because of the Big 12, have guard true big men with size and we've guarded undersized big men."
West Virginia initially plans to match Elijah Macon on Colson. At 6-9 and 240 pounds, Macon has a size advantage of one inch and 15 pounds. But he could struggle to match the double-double machine in terms of footwork, especially with the spacing created as Notre Dame plays a four-out offense looking for Colson to create or draw additional defenders and kick outside. It's among the reasons Colson is a double-double machine, averaging 17.5 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.
"I'm a big believer that we should front him and make it hard for him to catch it in general, Martin said. "If he steps out further that will benefit us. He's a tough cover. I don't know that we have played anybody like him that gets it done down low, but kind of has an unconventional way of getting it done. He's good at, when you're facing up, getting you up with a shot fake. Then he either gets to your body and creates the angle or when you come down he draws the foul. We watched film on him and we will watch more film. The bigs have been pretty good at knowing the scout. It doesn't mean those guys they are playing won't get off, but they're pretty dialed in. No matter how the scout is, we still have to play the game and make adjustments in game."
West Virginia could also slide Nate Adrian or Sags Konate over onto Colson as well, though Adrian would face a significant strength disadvantage. Colson could get into Adrian on the block, and create instant offense. Konate struggled a bit in the first round win over Bucknell, but will be utilized in stretches as the Mountaineers try to get a handle on among the top frontcourt players in the nation.
"Just knowing he likes to play off angles, just knowing that you have to stay down, especially guard him off ball and basically try to keep him out of the paint as much as possible," Macon said. "That's pretty much what I've seen from watching film so much. Colson pretty much plays on the block. They get him to the block so he can score and use his angles. Take away his angles and make him score through me and then obviously deny him bug still front him like I do everybody."