Marshall's inside presence will test the Mountaineers in the paint for the second consecutive game. Marshall plays a ten-man rotation, with all ten players averaging over 10 minutes per game, with nine of those players averaging six or more points per game.
Leading the way for Marshall is senior forward Marvin Black (6-7 215). The Cleveland native leads the team in points per game with 13.5 and rebounds with 7.5 despite only averaging 20.8 minutes per game. Ardo Armpolu (6-10, 240) averages 7.3 points and 4.3 boards a game off the bench, and Barboursville's Mark Patton (6-9, 205) averages 7.4 points and 5.2 boards for the Mid American Conference's best rebounding team.
Freshman Tre Whitted (6-4, 185) has started every game for Marshall at the three-guard position and junior college transfer Eric Smith (6-8, 220) has started the last two games for the Herd. The Herd has used a lineup of Hamilton, Smith, Patton, Black and Armpolu at times this season as they continue to pound the ball inside.
If scoring and rebounding both are strengths for the Herd, holding on to the ball has to be their most glaring weakness. A team that shoots just a shade under 43% from the field for the season has turned the ball over an astounding 236 times, or 18.6 per game.
West Virginia 1-3-1 defense vs. Marshall backcourt
WVU's strongest defense is designed to force bad shots and turnovers. Marshall's best game involves turning the ball over at a record pace. While WVU's size will not overwhelm the Herd, it will wreak havoc in the passing lanes and cause turnovers. If Hamilton and Dawn cannot get the ball to their bigger players inside, it could be a long evening for the Herd.
|Wed 1/21 8:00 p.m.|
|Charleston Civic Center|
WVU 8-6, 1-6
MU 6-7, 3-3
WVU - 86
MU - 134
|Margin: WV +3|
The Friars used a high-low offense, with one big man at the foul line and another running the baseline, to attack the WVU 1-3-1. Passes into the high post caused the defense to collapse, and exposed passing angles to either the low blocks or an open wing shooter.
While the Herd isn't overly tall, they do possess the weapons to make this work. However, it would be something of a departure from their normal attack, so it should be an interesting confrontation to watch.
MU: Marvin Black (Sternum) Probable
In past games, West Virginia was almost always the beneficiary of a strange coaching move or two by the Herd. Former Marshall coach Greg White was guaranteed to give up 10 points to the opposition each and every game. It was a matter of whether his talented team could make up for his blunderings over a 40-minute stretch.
That's not going to be the case this year, as new head coach Ron Jirsa's team has played within themselves and stuck to his philosophy of defense and rebounding, something none of White's teams never got the hang of.
If West Virginia has one thing going for it, it would be that they continue to beat the Herd no matter what the situation. Marshall is as deep as any team WVU will pay this year, but obviously not as talented as most of the Big East foes they will face. Marshall does not run or press, and therefore, their depth does not play a huge factor late in the game, except that their players are not worn out with five minutes to go.
Looking for a difference-maker? Perhaps it will be D'or Fischer, a shot blocker the likes of which Marshall has not, and will not, face at any other time this year.
Two high school rivals will play out round two of an anticipated four year battle on Wednesday, but but it may only last about ten minutes. Kevin Pittsnogle and Mark Patton will again square off, but in more limited roles they have had in their past meetings in both college and high school. Either Pittsnogle will only play about 15 minutes, Patton will only play 15 minutes due to Coach Ron Jirsa's rotation, or Patton will foul out. Patton commits a foul every 5.11 minutes, which is a big reason he only averages 18.5 minutes per game.
* * *
West Virginia has dominated the series in recent meetings, but the games have been closely contested. WVU is 12-3 against Marshall since the Capital Classic was started in 1989, and 10-2 since the game has been played annually in Charleston. The Mountaineers have also been victorious in six of the last seven meetings, including a 65-61 victory last year. However, the last five games have been decided by a total of 18 points, including two overtime decisions.
* * *
WVU Coach John Beilein is 3-0 in games played in Charleston, and those three wins weren't over cupcakes. His Mountaineer teams have defeated Florida, St. Louis, and the Herd in the Capital City.