Head coach Rich Rodriguez made an interesting point in his weekly press conference when he said it felt a little bit like preparing for a season opener. Obviously the Mountaineers aren't enjoying a break near as long as the time off between spring drills and the season opener, but if you think about Coach Rod's analogy, it isn't that far off.
The players have been practicing against each other for several days, and have been doing a lot more "good on good" work as opposed to playing against the scout teams. Also, the extra time off has given the team a chance to work more on fundamentals and technique. During the grind of the regular season, there is seldom time to work on such little things. Hopefully the extra attention to detail will pay off when the Blue and Gold suit up to face the Huskies.
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Switching gears for a minute, the Mountaineer men's basketball team was picked to finish fifth in the Big East in a preseason poll. For a team that returns seven of its top nine players from a squad that reached the Elite Eight, you may think that the fifth place prediction is a slap in the face. On the contrary, it is even more proof that the Big East is going to be a very tough, and very competitive conference this season.
Looking at the preseason poll, you have to scroll all the way down to ninth to find the Cincinnati Bearcats. Certainly the Cats will have a new identity this season, as there is no Bob Huggins roaming the sidelines. Still, they have plenty of talented players and will be a factor in the Big East Championship race.
Above the Mountaineers you have Villanova, Connecticut, Louisville, and Syracuse. All four of those schools have what it takes to get to the Final Four. For whatever its worth, I think the Mountaineers are right where they belong in the preseason standings. That being said, once the ball is tipped there is no way to predict how things will shake out in the reconfigured Big East basketball conference this winter.
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Back to football. As you know, next Wednesday's game against Connecticut will be a nighttime affair. Simply put, it's difficult for an opponent to win a night game at Mountaineer Field. (In the interest of full disclosure, night games are defined as starting at 5 pm or later.)
In the 25 year history of "new" Mountaineer Field, the Blue and Gold hold a dominant 13-4-2 record. During the Rich Rodriguez era, the Mountaineers are a perfect 6-0. Needless to say, I don't think the Huskies were exactly thrilled when they found out they'd be coming to Morgantown for a night game.
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And finally, one look at the statistics for these two teams would lead you to believe the Huskies may have an advantage on paper.
Defensively, UConn is giving up a meager 14.5 points per game. A closer look into the numbers, though, shows that they recorded back to back shutouts against traditional powerhouses Buffalo and Liberty. Also, they gave up seven points to a Syracuse team who is progressively getting worse offensively.
You may be wondering how many points the Mountaineers are averaging per contest. The answer? An ironic 27.3.