So, like much of last season's Big East Tournament, No. 19 West Virginia would again benfit from unearthing an additional kick, an added bonus of unexpected points, of instant offense. That can come – and must, looking at this season's roster – from Frank Young. And he has just the arena in which to do so.
The junior starter in West Virginia's otherwise senior-schemed top six morphed Madison Square Garden into his personal playground last year. He sparked West Virginia, hitting two quick 3-pointers late in the first half of last year's Big East Tournament game against top-seeded Boston College on the way to a career-high 14 points. He ripped then-No. 21 Villanova in the semifinals, scoring 12 points while again starting for the flu-ridden Tyrone Sally. He tallied 11 this year against St. John's in a bounce-back game after Marshall; Young hit three 3-pointers, had five rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal in his finest 2006 performance since, well, his last one, when he dumped in 13 points on five-of-seven shooting against Cincinnati.
"He seems to be not fazed by tough-game situations," WVU head coach John Beilein said. "I think he played very well against Connecticut here and he ended up playing well the other night. He has had his good and bad days but everyone on this team has. He's a key for us, especially if he rebounds like he did for us against Cincinnati."
That board work (Young had seven against UC), combined with a flash of past shooting brilliance, kept Young in the game longer. Beilein changed his substitution patters, using Patrick Beilein for a struggling Gansey instead of Young. The Tallahassee native played 30 minutes and essentially hit all three meaningful 3-pointers he took, his last coming as a desperate buzzer-beater from beyond half court.
If Young can maintain that rarely-seen-until-recently rebounding and hot shooting shown at Cincinnati – he won't do it off the bench, as that's Pat Beilein's job, except, ironically, in the last game against Pitt – he could again carry West Virginia past its arch rival for the second time in as many games and into the Big East semifinals.
"I'll be ready this year again," Young said. "I am not approaching it any differently. I have had good games there, like even this year against St. John's."
They key for those is hitting his first shot. Young, like many good-but-not-great shooters, is a streaky player. Jumpstarted by a make, and Young's off and shooting. Early misses put a damper on later attempts, and funnel over into defensive play, hustle and rebounding.
"I don't know why that is," John Beilein said, "but some kids just play better defense when they hit shots. It picks everything up."
And so it must be against Pitt, as dogged a man-defensive oriented team as one will see. The Panthers hold, claw, push, harass and generally play old-fashioned, get-after ‘em Big East defense. As Pittsnogle must hold his own inside against Gray, Young must hold up his end of the outside shooting.
"I gotta hit that first shot to get my confidence going," Young said. "I know don't need to let it be like that, but it is. I've had a lot of success in the Big East Tournament. But I like to hit that first shot."
That same really holds true for the entire West Virginia team. Herber's hot-streak at home against Pitt started immediately. He was to say later simply that when the first shot falls, it's more likely that the second will. You can't start a streak without the first. Pat Beilein says he has always been that way, that the first shot to fall begats others. Gansey even fell into a funk when he missed an open layup against Cincinnati, not coming out of his haze until the second half, when he hit five 3-pointers.
"I think our shooting has been part of the Garden," Gansey said. "You want to play well there when you think of all the great players."
West Virginia has, its offense clicking on all cylinders. In its first three 2005 Big East Tournament games, WVU made 35 3-pointers out of 74 tries. That's 47.3 percent, well above its season-average of 36.0 percent. It made just 79 field goals overall, meaning it had only nine more two-pointers than three in the three-game run and that it shot just four percent better from inside the arc than out.
"I'm not sure why I like shooting there," Young said, "but it might have to do with the lighting. It is darker surrounding the basket, in the stands, than any other places. It's depth perception. I have been fortunate to shoot well there. I had that feeling warming up there last year, and I'm excited to go back."
So is the rest of the a team that snapped the once-forgone conclusion that West Virginia could not win on the Big East's biggest stage.
"We seem to have a good time on the court in Madison Square Garden," Pat Beilein said. "We'll go out and have a fun time again."