Florida International, like WVU, has a couple of very good newcomers to pair with some solid returning veterans. This mix has been productive for FIU, which is not a pushover by any stretch of the imagination.
The freshmen are 6-3 point guard Carlos Morban and 6-9 Taurance Johnson, who man the point guard and power forward spots, respectively. Johnson leads the Golden Panthers with 15.3 points per game, and is able to play on both the perimeter and inside.
In another parallel to the Mountaineer squad, a veteran who has been overshadowed a bit by the arrival of the freshmen is the heart of the team. In FIU's case, it's shooting guard Rodrigo Viegas, who is second on the team in scoring and steals, and leads the squad in rebounding and assists. At 6-6, Viegas, a transfer from Virginia Tech, will provide defensive concerns for WVU's Lionel Armstead.
On the inside, the story isn't as good. Small forward Chris Carter and center Nikola Novokovic both struggle to get into the flow offensively, and are somewhat undersized at their positions. They typically don't have a lot of room to operate, as FIU is a poor three point shooting team. That fact allows opponents to clog the lane and force the Golden Panthers away from the basket, where they struggle.
FIU shoots only 31.3% from three point land despite hitting six of 11 against Miami on Monday, and are not an effective jump shooting team. Guard Slavcho Slavtchev is their only effective outside threat, hitting six of 11 three point shots.
WVU's Jonathan Hargett vs. Florida International's Carlos Morban
This matchup of freshmen point guards should prove highly entertaining and have a large determination on the game's outcome. While not as flashy as Hargett, Morban was a Top 20 rated point guard who has enough talent to frustrate the mercurial Hargett.
|WVU 0-0, 4-1
FIU 0-0, 4-3
|Sat 12/8 7:00 PM|
|Series: First Meeting|
|Line: WVU -11|
On WVU's side, Hargett must work to control his emotions when things don't go well, and also resist the temptation to try to take over when things aren't going the Mountaineers' way. When an opponent gets on a run, West Virginia is often better served by getting the ball inside to Chris Moss and running through the offense rather than launching a hurried three to try to catch up quickly.
Hargett's confidence in being able to pick his team up and make any shot is something that you don't want to lose, but at the same time he has to regulate the game and make sure everyone is involved.
On the flip side, Morban has been running the offense reasonably well for FIU, but he's not a big scoring threat. He thinks pass first, especially off penetration, but that's not necessarily a weakness for a point guard.
A good bit of the measure of a point guard's effectiveness is his ability to manage the game, keep a level head under pressure, and respond with the right decisions. Hargett had been very good in that department until last Wednesday. Morban has been a bit more up and down in that arena, and figures to face another test in what should be the most hostile environment he's yet faced in college.
So who are we playing? Florida Atlantic? Florida A&M? South Florida? Central Florida? Oh, that's right, Florida International.
Comments like those have been heard the past few days, and here's hoping the basketball team doesn't have the same attitude. After the James Madison loss, that shouldn't be present, but the fact that FIU isn't a "name" school gives cause for some concern.
In basketball, it's much easier to build a competitive team than in almost any other sport. If you have a ballhandler, a guy that can shoot, and a rebounder, you're in business. You might not make the NCAAs, but you can beat just about anyone on the old "any given night". FIU defeinitely fits into that category.
So, the most interesting thing to watch is how WVU approaches the game. Do they come out and run their offense efficiently? Are the quick shots being passed up in favor of some looks inside?
If West Virginia plays with the level of efficiency they displayed in New Mexico, they will win this game. If they get frustrated and hurried as they did during their recent Virginia trip, another upset is in the making.
Watch for WVU to come out with some presses, then fall back into a zone against FIU's weak perimeter game. The Mountaineers will be looking to cut off the penetration that so badly hurt them in the James Madison loss.
On the opposite end, FIU figures to force the action and the tempo, but that should play right into the Mountaineers' hands.
FLorida International lives up to its name with four foreign players on the roster, including Morban (Dominican Republic), Viegas (Brazil), Novakovic (Yugoslavia), and Slavcho Slavtchev (Bulgaria).
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The Golden Panthers also have eight players who have made stops at other colleges, including Virginia Tech, Seton Hall, Miami and South Florida, as well as four junior colleges.
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FIU begins football play in Division 1AA in September of 2002, and will be coached by former Miami Dolphins quarterback Don Strock.