All Business

With a veteran laden squad such as the Mountaineer men's basketball team, you wouldn't expect leadership or focus to be an issue. Fear not Mountaineer fans. Just over a week away from the season's first tip, practice has been all business from the get go in the Coliseum.

Last season was something special, even magical. Even the most optimistic of Mountaineer fans couldn't have realistically dreamed that John Beilein's charges would march all the way to the Elite Eight, and be just minutes away from a bid to college basketball's Holy Grail. As you know, that's exactly what happened.

While that's certainly nice to think about, it's also in the past. We know it, and the Mountaineer players are certainly not letting last year's success serve as a cushion for this season's goals.

"Obviously last year we were the underdog team," stated guard/forward Mike Gansey, one of five seniors on this year's team. "This year, with all the hoopla of us being ranked, and in the top five of the Big East, we're not satisfied with that."

That healthy, but focused attitude has been the norm during the first three seasons under the watch of head coach John Beilein, and there certainly isn't any evidence to suggest that a similar mindset won't be an integral part of Beilein's fourth season in Morgantown.

As you make your way down the stairwells from the concourse area to the court, there are pictures adorning the renovated hallways. The faces of the Beilein era are all there, from Gansey to Tyrone Sally. But once you get to the court, the glossy photos and fancy displays are no where to be found. On the hardwood, it's business as usual.

"I think we just all want to accomplish what we did last year. To do that, we have to be more determined and focused," said senior point guard J.D. Collins, who was Beilein's first recruit at WVU. "It's more serious now, especially teaching the young guys to play. To them, I think it's like school in a sense that they're just learning more every day."

"It's a very senior oriented and leadership heavy group out there on the floor. We know what we have to do," added instant offense sixth man Patrick Beilein. "I think it's making my dad's job a little easier, especially with the loss of (former WVU assistant coach, and current Eastern Kentucky head) coach (Jeff) Neubauer. It's more about getting down to business out there."

If anybody has a reason to rest his laurels on last year's success, you would think its senior center Kevin Pittsnogle. I mean, how many other guys in college basketball became so popular, that they actually went from being a proper noun to a verb? A quick chat with the sharp shooting big man reveals that nothing could be further from the truth.

"I think last year was a little bit different because we were just playing, and seeing what we could do," he said of the team with expectations to make the NIT, but probably not the Big Dance. "I think this year we know what we can do, but we have to come to practice every day and know what we are, but still practice hard."

"We just figure that last year was last year, and this is a whole new year. We're just trying to come in and play the best we can no matter where we're ranked. We just want to play as a team like we did last year when we weren't ranked," summed up Gansey.

This is a top 20 team playing in America's toughest conference. Some are saying they have what it takes to win the Big East. Others are going so far as to say the Mountaineers will duplicate last season's success and then some.

None of that matters to the guys that play the games. They know what they can do, but they also know what it takes to get there.

BlueGoldNews Top Stories