Rutgers features perhaps the most balanced lineup this side of Notre Dame that West Virginia has faced this season. The Knights' five starters and top reserve average between 7.5 and 15.9 points per game, which makes it difficult to single out one or two players to defend and take out of the game.
Junior guard Jerome Coleman sports the top scoring average on the team, but he's not the only threat to score. Running mate Mike Sherrod does a solid job of running the team and distributing the ball among everyone on the floor, but also finds time to score at a nine points per game pace.
Up front, the Knights were left a bit shorthanded by the transfer of 6-8 Shawn Hampton, but they have adapted well. Forwards Rashod Kent and Ricky Shields are undersized (at least vertically), but they manage to get to the basket in differing manners.
Shields is a slasher, while Kent camps in the lane, posts up and sticks back misses for his points. They are joined by 6-10 center Eugene Dabney, who has not yet lived up to the high expectations set for him, and 6-10 reserve Herve Lamizana, who averages almost ten points per outing off the bench.
WVU's Chris Moss vs. Rutgers' Rashod Kent
This battle probably won't be so much of a head to head contest as it will be one of the offensive player versus the opposing team's zone.
WVU 0-3, 7-7
RU 1-3, 10-6
|Wed 1/16 7:00 PM|
|Brown Athletic Center|
|Line: RU -5|
The key in this game is for each player to make the right decisions when they get the ball down low. They can't ignore their shots, but they also need to identify and hit the open man when the zone collapses around them.
On the defensive end, it will be important for each player to funnel their opponent into help and not give up open paths to the hoop. This aspect will be an interesting matchup, as Kent's size and bulk give him and advantage with power post moves, while Moss' better jumping and quicker post skills give him an edge putting the ball on the floor.
Look for WVU's defender to try to front the shorter Kent to keep the ball from being entered to him - he's not going to catch too many alley-oop passes over the zone.
WVU: Jonathan Hargett (Knee) Questionable
Historically, Rutgers and WVU have played close games, and this one figures to be no different. The Mountaineers have won the last four contests, but only by a total of 13 points.
Expect Rutgers to continue with their balanced attack as they move the ball around, use the shot clock effectively and try to get to the basket. If there is one wekaness in the Knights' armor, it's three point shooting, as transferred bomber Todd Billett was their main three point threat. Rutgers shoots only 32% from long range.
Look for WVU to counter the Rutgers offense with a series of zone defenses, especially if Jonathan Hargett is unable to play. The Mountaineers figure to be unable to go man to man with Rutgers' quick backcourt, so a steady diet of packed in zones, with perhaps a dash of diamond and one if someone for the Knights gets hot.
Offensively, WVU is going to struggle. The Mountaineers need to try to establish some sort of rhythm in the halfcourt, but after a half season of standing around and waiting for something to happen, it's going to be difficult to break that pattern.
Although Rutgers is not a big pressing team, it figures that they will try to put some backcourt pressure into play if Hargett does not play.
Rutgers and WVU disagree on the alltime series record. West Virginia lists it as 36-22 in the Mountaineers' favor, while the Scarlet Knights claim credit for one more win with a 35-23 advantage for WVU. We'll go with West virgini'as view.
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Strategy tip: Put Rashod Kent on the line. The Charles Barkley body double is hitting only 33% from the free throw line this season. The Mountaineers have fifteen fouls to use at the five spot, so they shouldn't come home with any of them left.
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WVU and Rutgers continue the trend of playing both their games in close proximity on the schedule. Rutgers returns the trip to the Coliseum in just 11 days.
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Rutgers head coach Gary Waters was ranked No. 1 in the Fashion Power Index by Collegeinsider.com, ahead of such fashion statements as Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith and John Calipari.