Tournament Hopes In Balance at Pitt

West Virginia's NCAA hopes are likely riding on Wednesday's game at Pitt, but head coach John Beilein is, as usual, focused on the game itself rather than its tournament ramifications.

"This should be a great game," Beilein said. "Certainly the game here was a fun one for everyone to watch. Now, we're going up to Pitt and facing a hostile atmosphere. We'll have to play one of best games we've played to have a chance to win the game.

The Panthers, like most ranked teams, provide problems on both ends of the floor for opponents to overcome.

"Scoring on Pitt is always a difficult task," Beilein observed. "They have a tremendous defensive game plan, and good defenders. And stopping Pitt is more difficult than ever right now, from the standpoint that maybe last year you could hope that Brown or Page would have an off day. They don't have many guys who have an off day anymore, and they are so multidimensional. Krauser and Taft are sensational. You don't win at Connecticut and Syracuse without good players."

"You have to vary your attack because they are so good defensively," Beilein said of WVU's strategy to put points on the board. "You might shoot over them, or go inside, or drive it at them. Hopefully you get some fast break chances. Scoring easy baskets is hard against them, and you don't get to the foul line against them – they are one at the best in the country at that."

RIFLE REPORTS

Asked to explain WVU's recent winning stretch (4-1 in the last five games), Beilein had a two word answer.

"The schedule."

He did add that a couple of poor performances caused his team's confidence to drop, and that it "became contagious" during the much of the January schedule.

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Beilein also talked about the rotation at center, where Kevin Pittsnogle and D'or Fischer have split time and starting assignments.

"Both of our centers have a lot of talent, but it's hard to play them both at same time," Beilein explained. "Neither are terrific rebounders. If you are going to play and neither is a dominating inside scorer, where is the advantage? They need to either help you rebound or score inside, or you are just playing big guards or big forwards that don't play as large as you'd like them to. So, there's not a great advantage to playing them both. If we did not have very good forwards, like Mike Gansey and Tyrone Sally, we would find another way to get them in there.

"Kevin was struggling when he wasn't playing a great deal, then when D'or got sick, Kevin had a chance to play well. He has played exceptionally ever since, and now D'or is not playing as well. The thing that Kevin gives you is not just size, but a quick release on the three. You have to get very close to him to stop him having a good look at the basket. He has the skills to score some inside, too. But I'd rather have a guy like him with some ability inside and is outstanding outside than a guy who is good inside but don't' have any ability on the perimeter."

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Beilein was also reticent in talking about WVU's NCAA chances, but did off a couple of his thoughts on the Big East's potential tournament lineup.

"The NCAA looks at road wins (and we have five) but a road win at Pitt is a completely different animal. Only three teams have won there, so the odds are against you, but there is an opportunity to make a name for yourself. That is the ultimate goal - to get [to the NCAAs]. We had good run last year in NIT, and we want to take the next step. It's difficult to get in to the top six or seven in this league, but we are certainly closer than last year.

"It probably depends on how the seventh team finishes," Beilein said of the number of conference teams he thinks will make the big dance. "That seventh team needs to finish strong. I think the Big East has 7 teams who are qualified to be NCAA tournament teams."


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