Improvement In Small Doses

"I am curious to see how much better we have gotten over the past month," head coach John Beilein said on Monday as his team, coming off a week without a game, prepared for a trip to Notre Dame.

Beilein, who is upbeat after his team's 7-3 start, is anxious to see how his charges have fared since late December wins over IPFW and Howard, who didn't provide the stiffest of challenges.

"I think we'll get an answer to that over the next 2 weeks," the New York native said of his team, which faces Notre Dame, Georgetown, Virginia Tech and Providence during that span.

West Virginia's improvement has come in small doses, but Beilein says that he sees it every day, especially on the defensive end of the floor.

"Even though our defense was solid the last two games, it continues to improve in practice. We are getting a better understanding of the different reads we have to make when we help each other. Also, our one on one defense has improved a great deal. No matter what defense you are playing, if you on the ball defense improves, that will help."

Changes on the offensive end may have made improvements there a bit less discernible. Beilein notes that changes to game plans for different opponents, as well as suffling in his own lineup, have caused progress there to be a bit slower. As the veteran coach noted before the season, the process of rebuilding the Mountaineer program still has a long way to go, and the addition of four new players to the mix this year, while a bonus to depth, has made sorting out the offense something of a problem.

Early on, Beilein noted that he was looking for an eight man rotation, but that plan has apparently been shelved with the improvement of Frank and Jerrah Young, both of whom have been "coming on strong" in practice.

"We might have a starting ten," Beilein laughed. "I told everyone 'just hang on, it's not important who starts'. What's important is what you bring to the team. Frank Young and Jerrah Young have gotten dramatically better in the past couple of weeks, and Tyler Relph as well. I don't know if their minutes will increase, but they will play, so an eight man rotation probably won't happen very often.

"I probably would like to have a set five, but this is the way we get to that. We throw people in there and say "what have you got"? We have to go through it and see who continues to pick up the nuances in our scouting report and who continues to work hard."


Beilein is not suprised with the play of D'or Fischer in the middle, and despite the slightly reduced scoring of Kevin Pittsnogle, remains happy with the center spot.

"D'or's blocks don't surprise me. His inside scoring and offensive rebounds have probably provided us with a couple of wins. Kevin Pittsnogle is shooting 40% from three , but playing less minutes. We're getting 20 points and 10 rebounds per game from center, so we love the way the five spot is performing.

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If there's one problem in the rotation, it's at the four position, where scoring productivity and rebounding are a problem.

"Four is an area we are working on very hard. Wheter we go small and play Joe Herber or play Jerrah and Tyrone Sally, or go big, we will evaluate it every day. The lineup can depend on who we play.

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Rebounding, as always, was a topic of conversation as well. Beilein and his staff are concentrating on his team's attention to rebounding, and the nuances of things like selecting the correct person or position to block out. He noted that area is another on his daily list of work items, and that the importance of attention to those details will help his team get better on the boards.

"We grade everything after every game," Beilein noted. Each player gets a grade on blocking out, shots, everthing. Then, in practice the next day, we run for everytime we didn't do the right thing, like block out the right person or get to the right area.

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Beilein also noted that the health of his team appears to be good as they prepare to travel to Notre Dame.

"We've practiced very hard the past week. We've had a few bangups, but I think we are at 100% right now."

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