Historically, head coach John Beilein has had success with teams he has taken abroad. He noted that one of his Canisius squads took a tour overseas prior to a season in which the Golden Griffins ended up winning fourteen road games. Likewise, West Virginia teams that have played preseason tours abroad have tasted success in the regular season. The 1997-98 Sweet 16 team played in Europe prior to the season. The 2000-01 team, that ironically fell to Beilein's Richmond Spiders in the NIT, preceded the regular season with a trip to Australia.
Does this mean that because the Mountaineers are playing games halfway around the world in August that we can count on seeing postseason basketball in March? Not particularly. But you can't argue with history.
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The 20 minute officiated scrimmage that concluded Sunday's practice included quite a dramatic ending.
The "Blue" squad featuring Nick Patella, Kevin Pittsnogle, Frank Young, Duriel Price, and B.J. Byerson trailed the "White" squad of D'Or Fischer, John Curran, J.D. Collins, Patrick Beilein, Tyrone Sally, and Mike Gansey by a 33-31 margin with less than 20 seconds remaining. Young uncorked a three that rimmed out, but Byerson was there for the offensive rebound. He fired the ball to Pittsnogle, whose three ball was also offline. But Byerson again grabbed the offensive rebound, and "Blue" coach Matt Brown called a timeout.
Following the quick break, Young hit a floater to tie the game at 33 with four seconds left. As the White team attempted to inbound the ball, Byerson again was johnny on the spot, grabbing the inbounds pass out of mid-air and feeding Patella for an uncontested lay up as the horn sounded. And there was much rejoicing.
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One player who has stood out this week is Pittsnogle, and it has nothing to do with the handful of new tattoos that the 6'10" Martinsburg native has added. The big man has not only bulked up, (he said earlier in the week that he was up to 259 pounds, but also looks to have added a lot of quickness), routinely beating the entire defense down the court on fast breaks, and showing some nimble moves around the basket.
"I've been here all summer working on quickness, and some of the little things that I've needed to work on," said Pittsnogle following Sunday's practice. Pittsnogle also says that he's tried to provide a little bit of vocal leadership.
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The Mountaineers will practice once in Europe on Wednesday, and again when they arrive in Germany. And while they will concentrate mostly on West Virginia, WVU will try to work a bit on the foes they face. However, scouting the European teams will be a bit different than scouting Big East opponents.
"I've been emailing the coaches of the teams we'll be playing over there telling them what we do, and asking some of the things they do," noted Beilein. "We aren't going to go over there and surprise a team by throwing a 1-3-1 zone defense on them if they've never seen one."
The etiquette displayed in these preseason tours reiterates that the focus is more on the team playing well together against tough competition as opposed to winning. Sure, it would be great to go over and win all six games, but if the Mountaineers didn't execute their offensive and defensive sets, or play well together, then the trip would be counterproductive. The goal is for the team to work Byerson and Gansey into the mix and improve as a group, and if that is achieved, then Mountaineer fans could see a season of success to match those of prior trip years.