Offensively, the changes are obvious. Schifino's complaints to the contrary, the fact was that many of WVU's offensive sets were designed to get him as many touches as possible, especially on the left wing where he could foray to the basket. That's not to say that WVU had a one-man offense, but Schifino was at least "first among equals".
While there haven't been wholesale changes in the plays since Schifino's departure, there have been some shifts in emphasis. A great deal of work is being done on gettting the ball into the post, whether at the foul line or on the blocks. And although neither D'or Fischer or Kevin Pittsnogle are twenty point-per-game scorers just yet, they are beginning to get more comfortable in the post with their backs to the basket.
Passes to the big men have also opened up three point shooters from the perimeter (the classic "inside-out" attack), and has also opened some new lanes of opportunity for forward Tyrone Sally, who has made more drives and strong moves to the hoop over the past three weeks than he did all of last season.
Of course, there's still a lot of work to do as the team works into its new persona. Chief among those is Kevin Pittsnogle's development. He is still working on the differences of getting his shot off from the perimeter as a power forward instead of a center. That's a change that might not appear difficult at first glance, but in fact does pose some different challenges.
As a center, Kevin would often set a pick, then hand the ball off to a guard and float away toward the three-point line to shoot. Facing opposing centers, he was often unguarded in this position. As a forward, he not only has to contend with more athletic defenders who can cover out to the three-point line, but also has to adjust to the method in which he gets the shots. As a four, Kevin might run off a screen and get the ball on the move, which is much different than the manner in which he got it at the five spot.
WVU also needs to get more penetration from their point guards. While Joe Herber has done a solid job in forcing the action while playing the two guard spot, both Jarmon Durisseau-Collins and Tyler Relph need to get inside at least a couple more times per game. By doing so, they should be able to draw some defensive attention and free players like Sally on weakside cuts for easier scoring chances.
Defensively, two of the biggest changes have again involved Pittsnogle and Sally. West Virginia has found a couple of ways to work Pittsnogle and Fischer into the lineup at the same time on this end. First, the Mountaineers have played a bit of 2-3 zone, which has allowed the two big men to play along the back line. WVU has also made a few changes to their 1-3-1 defense when Pittsnogle is in the game which allows him to use his defensive strengths while minimizing the time he has to spend in the open floor.
The most important change, however, has come at the top of the 1-3-1 zone. Sally, who moved to the point of the defense three weeks ago, has been almost as much of a defensive problem to opponents as Fischer has. Sally contests passes, uses his long arms and reach to disrupt passing lanes, and is quick enough to force ballhandlers to one side of the floor and keep them there. He has tipped or deflected a number of passes, and is a primary reason for West Virginia's defensive improvement over the past few games.
Since these changes started coming into play, WVU is 4-2. That's a remarkable record, no matter what the opposition, for a team that's undergoing such changes. As West Virginia continues to improve and implement these changes, however, the difficulty of their tasks increase. The Mountaineers head into the meat of their schedule this Saturday, and with two games against Villanova and single contests against Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Seton Hall, and Syracuse left, getting enough wins to get to the postseason won't be easy.
With 11 wins already tucked away, four more wins in the remaining ten regular season games would salt away an NIT berth, something very few Mountaineer fans would have thought possible at the turn of the new year. Although WVU will have to continue to improve in order to reach that goal, it's one that is within reach, and would be another nice step forward as the renovations, both inside and outside the Coliseum, continue.