Shuffled lineups due to performance and suspension issues have the Seton Hall starting lineup somewhat in doubt. With guard J.R. Morris (Jr., 6-6, 205 lbs.) suspended and perhaps out for the WVU game, the Hall could go a couple of different directions with its starting five.
If Morris, one of the best rebounding guards in the country, doesn't play, the guard spots are likely to be manned by Donald Copeland (Jr., 5-10, 170 lbs.) and Jamar Nutter (So., 6-2, 205 lbs.). Copeland will try to fill Morris' three-point shooting role, as he has made 36.8% of his treys this season, but his 5.8 points per game average is less than half of Morris' output, as his strengths run more toward the defensive end of the floor. Nutter, who recently moved into the starting lineup, averages just 3.8 points per game and has more turnovers than assists on the season.
Up front, forwards John Allen (Sr., 6-5, 205 lbs.) and Kelly Whitney (Jr., 6-8, 245 lbs.) handle the bulk of the scoring duties. Whitney muscles his way to 12.5 points and 6/7 rebounds per game, while Allen checks in with 11,4 points and 5.0 rebounds per contest. Both players do most of their damage around the basket, and will provide a strong challenge for WVU's up and down interior defense. Center Grant Billmeier (So., 6-10, 255 lbs.) has come on strong of late, and while he shows season-long averages of only 3.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per outing, has put up much better numbers than those over his last five games.
Another potential starter is Andre Sweet (Sr., 6-6, 220 lbs.). Allen, who also plays shooting guard at times, could swing to the backcourt to make room for Sweet, a strong player who gives the Pirates another inside threat. Averaging 8.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, Sweet give Hall head coach Louis Orr some nice options as he juggles his lineup throughout the game.
The primary backcourt backup is Justin Cerasoli (Fr., 6-5, 180 lbs.) who has split time with Copeland at the point. The taller Cerasoli is more of an offensive threat who shoots better than Copeland, although he is averaging only 6.4 points per game. With Morris out, Cerasoli may get more shooting looks against WVU than he has in most other games this year.
WVU's jack-of-all-trades faces off against a Pirate role player that has had big games against the Mountaineers in the past.
|Sun Feb. 20|
WVU 15-8, 5-7
SH 11-11, 3-8
SH leads 9-8
WVU - 63
SH - 135
Gansey, who has been more banged up than a 72 El Camino at a demolition derby, will likely check Sweet in man-to-man situations. He'll be giving up at least 30 pounds to the Pirate, so look for Sweet to post up and take Gansey into the lane as he tries to take advantage of his size. On the flip side, Gansey, who showed newfound aggressiveness in WVU's road win over St. John's, may attempt to wear Sweet down on the offensive end by putting the ball on the floor and forcing him to work hard on defense. A healthy Gansey could give Sweet problems on the boards as well, as he is quicker off the floor and capable of getting to the glass with his jumping ability.
Just like the St. John's game, WVU can win if only the Pirates' big guns are firing. However, if role players like Sweet double their scoring averages, West Virginia will join the Hall in playing for an NIT berth from here on out.
SH: Kelly Whitney (Head) Will Play
Another must win for WVU looms on Sunday in the form of Seton Hall, but a quick look at the RPI ratings reveals the Mountaineers may be fighting an uphill battle in their bid for an NCAA berth. West Virginia is mired in the upper 60s, and probably needs to improve by at least 10-15 spots in order to be considered for an at-large berth, no matter how many games they win.
Worries like that, however, must be put aside by the Mountaineers as they face the Pirates. WVU hasn't matched up well with Seton Hall over the past couple of seasons, as the Pirates have held WVU to low shooting percentages, including a 35.7% mark in last year's game at the Coliseum. That's a mark that probably won't yield a win if duplicated in this year's matchup.
WVU will likely continue to search for balance between inside and outside scoring in its attack, but look for the Pirates to defend West Virginia aggressively on the perimeter with four defenders, backed by bulky Grant Billmeier in the paint. When confronted with such pressure, WVU must drive the ball aggressively to the basket with the thought of shooting first in order to draw Pirate defenders away from the perimeter. Specifically, Tyrone Sally and Darris Nichols need to use their talents in this area to get shots off in the lane and force the Pirates to guard them in mid-range shooting areas.
Seton Hall has used six different starting lineups this year, which, given injuries and the like, isn't all that unusual. However, three of those different starting fives have been used in the Pirates' last three games.
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Head coach John Beilein has been concerned about WVU's field goal percentage defense, and rightly so. The Mountaineers are allowing conference foes to shoot 50.5% from the field. That number was bolstered by St. John's, which hit a sizzling 60.9% last Wednesday. That shooting percentage is the highest by an opposing team that lost a game to WVU. Prior to that contest, Temple shot 60.5% on March 16, 1981, in a losing effort. Those two instances are the only two times in school history where a team shot 60 percent or higher and lost.
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While WVU has been getting off to some good starts in games recently, Seton Hall has done just the opposite. The Pirates have dug themselves deficits of nine, 12, 12, 14 and 15 points in early first half action of recent contests.
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A recent slump from the free throw line has knocked D'or Fischer from the top of the league's charts. In fact, Fischer isn't even atop WVU's stat board any more. Kevin Pittsnogle (88.5%) now leads the team in free throw shooting, followed by Fischer at 81.5%.
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For the first time in a long time, WVU's three-point shooting percentage has dipped below the 33% mark. (That's a magic number, you'll recall, because a team making 33% of its threes scores the same number of points as a team hitting 50% of its two-pointers.) WVU is now 196-596 from beyond the arc on the season, for a percentage of 32.9.