"They Don't Have Many Weaknesses"

Head coach John Beilein has been like Diogenes at ACC headquarters. He's searching (in this case for weaknesses in Pitt instead of an honest man in the ACC), but so far hasn't been able to come up with much.

"They don't have many weaknesses," Beilein said amidst preparations for the Panthers. "I sure haven't found many yet. They are a great defensive club and offensively they are so hard to guard. It's not only the cuts they run, but the ability of all five guys to pass the ball. I don't think there's a better team out there, maybe some just as good, but if you look at them, I don't see anyone better."

Beilein credits that tried but true standby, experience within the system, with Pitt's continued success despite losing a group of excellent seniors last year.

"They've had one more year within their system, and they seem to be better than last year. They lost some great seniors, but they are a better shot blocking team than last year, and Krauser is probably a more consistent three-point shooter than [Brandin] Knight was. They are a year older and stronger, and the freshman Taft makes a huge difference inside. Last year you couldn't move Lett, but Taft is more active. He's likely to send a shot right back at you."

Beilein is happy to see the sellout crowd that's expected to pack the Coliseum, but doesn't want his team to get caught up in that hoopla, or the excitement around the 100th year of WVU basketball celebration ceremonies.

"I'll be preaching to the players that it's a game like any other game as far as what you have to do to win. You don't have to do anything spectacular, just do what you are supposed to do. We probably won't be as used to it as Pitt is, because I expect they have seen sellout crowds on the road this year.

I do hope we get a boost from the crowd, but we don't want to get too much. Too much juice isn't always good. We have to be sure we play within ourselves."

RIFLE REPORTS

Beilein sets many goals for his team, but doesn't have a specific number of assists or assist-to-made-basket ratios that he's looking for. However, after West Virginia recorded an awesome 42 assists on 51 made shots in its last two games, Beilein says he might be setting some percentages to aim for.

"Only my really good teams have come close to that level," Beilein said of the Mountaineers' passing prowess recently. "That's always one of my goals, to pass the ball well. We don't want to be too unselfish and pass up shots, of course.

"I have been looking at that a little bit, and I have heard that assists on 60-70% of your made baskets is good. I will probably look into that, and see what some of my better teams did, and set some goals on what level I would like us to be at.

"We have very good chemistry, and our assist numbers have been way up. Our team looks for each other," Beilein concluded.

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Despite several attempts from Pittsburgh media to resurrect the Drew Schifino episode, Beilein refused to be baited. He politely declined to comment, but did take the opportunity to talk about his team's play in the conference.

"In the Big East portion of our schedule, our kids are more experienced and feel more comfortable with what they are doing. We have some veterans that got knocked around last year, and their abilities and reads have improved over the past year."

* * *

While noting that fatigue may have been a contributing factor, Beilein noted that last year's slump at the end of the year was as much due to the schedule as anything.

"Last year we were a young team that was getting tired and playing lots of minutes, but it also had to do with who we played," Beilein observed. We played Syracuse twice, Seton Hall twice and Pitt once in February. I don't think it was so much how we were playing than who we were playing.

"This year, we have two great teams at home plus teams that are improved over last year on the road. I don't think fatigue will be a factor for us. If we can play well on a particular night, and if we don't get injuries, we should be ok."

* * *

Beilein continues to note that the WVU program is far from being complete, but is praising his team's attention and willingness to improve.

"We are still a work in progress.' Beilein said as he assessed the state of the Mountaineers. "The kids have been very responsive to doing those things we need to do to be a winning program. Our big thing is growing from our mistakes. We all make them. Players make them, and the coaches make them. But we work to correct them, and this has been a great group to work with."


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