Playing the Game

Head coach John Beilein sees both pluses and minuses in playing the annual Marshall game in the middle of the Big East season, but like the politicians it is played in front of, he is quick to highlight the positives, no matter how difficult they are to see.

"Anybody in the state knows it's an exciting day when they play in front of an emotional crowd," Beilein said of the game, which figures to again be Mountaineer-dominated this year. "It's always a tough one for both teams. The last three games were decided on the last possession, and this one may be no different.

"I can't control everything, but moving it out of conference season would make it better. This is the way it has to be with the [Legislature] being there. We have to be versatile and attack it and make the best of it. If that's what they want us to do, that's what we will do until we find a better way to do it. But, it is better to play an emotional game than an unemotional game right now. Playing this game is better than playing Savannah State (1-17, #326 in the RPI) at our place right now – that would be a tough task to get us motivated."

(Note: Marshall is 7-9, and #252.)


Beilein maintained his indifference to the fact that West Virginia broke into the Top Ten in the AP Poll.

"I'd have the same reaction as when someone told me we were in the Top 25 or not in at all. No reaction. It's doesn't make a difference until March, and we are selected [for the NCAA]. That's the number I want to be in -- the 34 they pick or whatever it is."

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Beilein continues to downplay West Virginia's recent success – which is one of the reasons WVU has been winning so much.

"I don't think we are successful yet. We've been to one NCAA and 1 NIT. I don't want to rain on anyone's parade, but we have a lot more to go to be successful. At Canisius and Richmond we didn't get to play a lot of top 25 teams, and when we did it was always at their place. We didn't dream we would be able to do what we have done here, but we have to keep doing it."

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During tape study, Beilein identified a couple of items that he believed WVU could improve upon.

"I though we were out of sync a lot last year [in the Marshall game], and we saw it in the Villanova game earlier. I think in those two games we saw the value of J.D. Collins on the floor. At that point we were having problems running the offense and defense as smoothly as we do now. I watched last year's game and this year's clip tape over the past two days. I tried to concentrate on UCLA yesterday to find where we could shore things up, but watched a lot of Marshall today. I think Mark Patton is a terrific basketball player and have always been impressed with him. You can see they are getting better and better every day. As the year was starting, they were introducing themselves to each other, I'm sure, but one of the marks of a Ron Jirsa team is that it gets better.

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Beilein changed up WVU's practice schedule a bit to help the team get back into something approaching a normal preparation mode for the Marshall contest.

"This is uncharted waters for us with long trip back, so we tweaked the system a little bit. I thought if we gave them yesterday off they'd sleep all day, so we practiced yesterday, then gave them today off. We'll go back at it hard tomorrow. But we will not use that as an excuse if we do not play well."

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Beilein again headed off any attempts to talk about the speculations that he might be a target for the Wake Forest job, should it come open.

"It's senseless to comment about any of that stuff," he said.

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