Senior forward Steve Novak leads a young Marquette lineup that has opened some eyes with its 12-4 start. Novak (Sr., 6-10, 220 lbs.) is averaging 16.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game while providing a great deal of leadership for his mostly callow teammates. He is the player in the league most like Kevin Pittsnogle, which should make for an interesting matchup.
Bracketing Novak are Dan Fitzgerald (So., 6-9, 200 lbs.) and Jamil Lott (Jr., 6-7, 225 lbs.), both of whom recently received their first starts. Fitzgerald is averaging 4.4 points per outing, while Lott is tallying just 3.6 per contest. Ousmane Barro (So., 6-10, 235 lbs.) and Ryan Amoroso (So, 6-8, 245 lbs.) give coach Tom Crean plenty of options, as well as more size, on the front line. They combine for 11.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, and could also start should Crean decide to go with a bigger, stronger lineup right off the bat.
In the backcourt, freshmen Dominic James and Jerel McNeal have made what was thought to be the big weakness for this year's Marquette squad a position of strength. Both pass the ball well, with James (Fr., 5-11, 175 lbs.) averaging 5.7 assists per outing, while McNeal (Fr., 6-3, 185 lbs.) adds 2.5. They aren't just distributors, either, as James tosses in 13.8 points per contest, with McNeal adding 11.4. With freshman Wes Matthews out with a stress fracture, the bulk of the backup work at guard falls to Joe Chapman (Sr., 6-4, 210 lbs.) who scores a respectable 4.9 points per game.
Novak vs. Pittsnogle provides a great marquee matchup for this contest, albeit an unusual one. Rather than square off in the lane, the sharpshooting big men could stage a duel from beyond the arc.
|Sat Jan 14|
WVU 11-3, 3-0
MU 12-4, 2-1
WVU - 66
MU - 41
Like many anticipated matchups of this sort, however, it's often something a bit different that decides the battle. That could be the case here, as both big guys will likely get their points on the perimeter. The deciding factor could be the player that gives his team more in the paint, both offensively and defensive. Last year, this might not have been a contest, but Pittsnogle's improvements this year figure to make this battle one to watch. While the two players might not go head to head very often, they certainly will cross paths at times, which should make for some interesting encounters.
The Golden Eagles don't jump out in any one particular area, but are a well-coached team that figures to improve dramatically as the season progresses. They already showed their ability with a blowout win over Connecticut, but also demonstrated they are still young in losses to Winthrop and Nebraska. They probably aren't ready to challenge for the top rungs of the Big East just yet, but if the Mountaineers aren't prepared to play, the visitors could give them a nasty bump on the road to the Big East tournament.
WVU: J.D. Collins (Foot, Ankle, Wrist) Will play
MU: Wes Matthews (Foot) Out
Despite its smaller team stature, WVU has actually blocked more shots than it has suffered. The Mountaineers have rejected 38 shots while seeing just 33 come back in the wrong direction.
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It's time for a bit more appreciation for John Beilein. He continues to move up the career wins list, and now stands 89th among the NCAA's all-time winningest coaches. He has also won more games against ranked teams at WVU in a shorter span than any other coach in school history. Let's remember that the next time we are ready to make snap judgments.
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While WVU is in the middle of a three-game homestand, the visiting Golden Eagles are playing game two of a three game road swing – their longest of the season. Marquette dropped Seton Hall in the opener, and stops off at DePaul on Tuesday on its way back to Milwaukee.
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The career three-point race between Patrick Beilein and Kevin Pittsnogle is likely to get interesting. Currently, Beilein holds the WVU all-time mark with 205, but Pittsnogle is hot on his heels with 199. Pittsnogle's next make will make him the third Mountaineer in school history with 200 (the other is Chris Leonard, who also had 200). The guess here is that Pittsnogle will catch Beilein and end his career as WVU's all-time leader in three point shots.
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Marquette radio play-by-play man Steve True is nicknamed "The Homer". Wonder who he's rooting for? Color man Jim McIlvaine is a Golden Eagle basketball alumnus.