WVU will face a huge challenge in containing the Wake Forest backcourt of Chris Paul and Justin Gray, who will hold a decided quickness and speed advantage over their Mountaineer counterparts. West Virginia must find a way to cut down on their penetration to the basket, as the Demon Deacon pair will slice up the WVU defense if they are allowed to get into the lane as they did against Chattanooga.
Defending against quick guards has not been one of WVU's strong suits, however. Villanova hurt WVU in both meetings this year with guard penetration, as did Creighton on Thursday. One of the turning points of that game was when Bluejay Johnny Mathies fouled out, which hurt Creighton's ability to get inside against the Mountaineer defense.
"Their guards are tremendous and have a great deal of talent," WVU point guard J.D. Collins said of the Wake Forest duo. "We're not going to get quicker or grow taller overnight, so we just have to go out there and compete."
"Paul and Gray are two of the best guards in the country, so we're going to do anything we can to try to stop them from getting on a roll," added Mountaineer forward Mike Gansey, who will face the pair at the top of West Virginia's 1-3-1 zone defense.
On the reverse side of the matchup, Demon Deacon head coach Skip Prosser notes WVU's guards have an advantage of their own.
"Their guards are so much bigger than ours," Prosser said, while refusing to acknowledge his players' decided edge in quickeness. "I'm not sure how we're going to combat that."
For the record, Collins (5-10, 180 lbs.) and Joe Herber (6-6, 215 lbs.) aren't that much bigger than Paul (6-0, 175 lbs.) and Gray (6-2, 186 lbs.).
WVU head coach John Beilein recorded his 500th career collegiate victory with the win over Creighton, but the decidedly modest mentor did not attach any special significance to the win.
"I knew it was out there, because you see the press notes, but I didn't realize it [after the game], and it doesn't feel any different than any other win." said Beilein. "I had like 70-80 wins in junior college, but those are so much tougher than any win I get now. People may not believe that, but when you don't have assistant coaches, you don't have videotape, you sweep the floor, do the laundry, and drive the van, those are tough wins to get. I am so glad I persevered through that, because I think it made me a better coach today."
Beilein recorded 75 wins on the junior college level, 20 wins at NAIA Nazareth, and 163 wins at Division II LeMoyne. He has 241 Division 1 wins at Canisius, Richmond and West Virginia.
Despite detractors who downplay Beilein's 500 wins becuase they didn't all come at the Division I level, the fact remains that 500 career wins is an outstanding achievement, and one that deserves recognition and respect.
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Might WVU play a box-and-one against Paul? While the 1-3-1 and the man-to-man have been the Mountaineers' primary defenses this year, West Virginia did bring out the box-and-one against Darryl Hill and St. John's earlier this year. Collins did an admirable job against the high scoring Hill, holding him scoreless from the field in the final eight minutes of WVU's home win.