Mountaineers Tough To Figure Out

WVU is struggling to find itself these days as a basketball team. Coming off a stunning loss to Duquesne at home on Wednesday, people were beginning to wonder if this team was all hype and no substance.

It has even gone so far that a writer from Morgantown has seen fit to personally rip Jonathan Hargett for not being Michael Jordan after ten years in the NBA.

Make no mistake: Hargett, WVU's freshman point guard, who most speculate will have a short career at WVU before bolting to the NBA, has a long way to go before he is ready to take on Allen Iverson on a nightly basis.

But unless some people's expectations have gotten completely out of whack based upon some preseason hype, I don't think that NBA stardom is a prerequesite for the starting point guard spot on the WVU basketball team.

What does Hargett mean to the Mountaineers? Well, if someone from the Dominion Post would have bothered to make the trip to Knoxville to see the Mountaineers play against a team that hadn't lost a home non-conference game in their last 38 attempts covering four years, they would have seen it.

WVU is hard to figure out because they lay an egg at home against a pathetic 2-4 team who hasn't won a road game since before Clinton discovered cigars, and then they go and dominate a team that just fired their coach.

And they fired their coach because because he only took them to the NCAA tournament four straight years after a nine year hiatus. They fired their coach for winning the SEC's Eastern Division in 1999 and 2000, and won the entire SEC in 2000, a feat they hadn't pulled off in 15 years. Despite that impressive resume, the Mountaineers dominated most of the game.

It looked pretty bleak for the Mountaineers when Chris Moss fouled out with 2:15 to play in regulation and West Virginia clinging to a three point lead after the resulting free throws.

It looked very bleak when the Mountaineers turned the ball over on their next possession, allowing UT to cut the lead to one with 1:52 to play. And it looked even more bleak when UT's offensive specialist picked Hargett cleaner than a buzzard on a deer carcass with 34.6 seconds to go and WVU up one.

But this is what happens when you depend on a freshman to pull you through a tough one. Jonathan wasn't even supposed to play. According to Coach Catlett, he would have been happy with "10 minutes per half" from Hargett. But it was painfully obvious in the first five minutes of the game, when, with the freshman sensation watching from the pine, Tennessee pressed Lional Armstead, who was playing out of position, relentlessly. After a couple of turnovers, Catlett had seen enough.

Enter Hargett. UT's press instantly was less successful. And if it weren't for some poor shooting decisions on Jonathan's part, which is all part of being a freshman, WVU might have put the game away in the first half. But if it weren't for Hargett, WVU would probably not have even been able to cross half court.

Hargett isn't a one man show. Without Armstead snapping out of his shooting slump and hitting some very clutch shots for 20 points, and Chris Moss dominating the boards inside for 18 points and 13 boards, WVU would probably not have been in position to win anything but a quiet trip back home with three minutes to go. Chaz Briggs came off the bench and snatched seven rebounds, and Armstead and Drew Schifino both finished with five rebounds apiece.

But when it was time to shine, the ball was in the hands of the man with no conscience. The entire team has confidence that Jonathan hits that shot. The look in his eyes as he made his shake-and-bake leads you to believe missing just isn't part of the consideration.

Live with freshmen, die with freshmen. When WVU runs the offense, they look awfully tough to beat. When they get out of rhythm, they don't look very good at all. Saturday, they looked pretty darn good. And at 7-2, they are feeling pretty good heading into the Fiesta Bowl tournament.

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