In the semifinals of the Old Spice Classic, Western Michigan will test WVU's inside defense even more severely than Montana did.
Center Joe Reitz (6-7, 255 lbs.) is a force in the paint, and will be a handful for WVU's centers and the back line of the 1-3-1. Reitz scored 17 points, with nine of those coming from the free throw line, and snared eight rebounds in the Broncos' win over Virginia Tech. Forward Jon Workman (6-9, 220 lbs.), is a good complement to Reitz, as he has made seven of his 20 three-point attempts to date. He has started the last two games.
The three-guard lineup is spearheaded by Michael Redell (6-0, 185 lbs.), who is averaging 10.5 points per game. Like Reitz, Redell lived at the foul line against the Hokies, canning 9-10. Swingman Gary Fracalossi (6-5, 205) had a rough shooting outing against Tech, failing to make a shot, but is still a threat to be concerned with from the outside. Shawntes Gary (6-2, 205 lbs.) completes the trio, averaging just over seven points per contest.
Off the bench, swingman Derek Drews, who started two games earlier in the season, provides more than nine points and 2.5 rebounds per game. With a similar build to Fracalossi (6-5, 220 lbs.) the Broncos don't have to do much adjusting when he and Fracalossi check in and out. And if head coach Steve Hawkins chooses to go big, he can play both at the same time, which would certainly be a matchup problem for the Mountaineers. Forward Andrew Hershberger (6-7, 225 lbs.) is yet another strong presence on the floor, averaging 7.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per outing.
In the backcourt, substitute Andre Ricks (5-9, 160 lbs.) had his best game of the season against the Hokies, scoring 12 points in just 14 minutes of action.
The quick turnaround for this game limits the potential for adjustments, teaching and learning from mistakes for both teams. Thus, this contest will likely come down to which team can execute its strengths the best.
|Fri Nov 25|
The Milk House
Walt Disney World
WVU 4-0, 0-0
WM 2-2, 0-0
WVU - 35
WM - 167
Were these games in February, fatigue might be a factor. However, the Mountaineers and Broncos have each played just four games, so the wear and tear that might be evident later in the season shouldn't be as much of a factor now. WVU went with its eight man rotation for most of the game, with Devan Bawinkel getting a couple of short stints as the ninth man and Wellington Smith getting in for the final three minutes as the tenth. Should tiredness be a factor, West Virginia should be well-prepared to combat that with extra players off the bench.
The win over Montana was another huge step in the very early development of this Mountaineer team, as WVU showed it can play comfortably on the road and protect a lead. West Virginia has also relieved some of the pressure on the trip, as it now knows it won't go home without a win in the tournament. The next challenge to come will be playing in a close contest – something that figures to come in the matchup with the Broncos. Is a trip to the finals too much to dream of?
The Broncos are 69-96 from the free throw line through four games, which gives a hint to their offensive style. WMU runs a weaving offense that features lots of drives off perimeter screens, which results in a lot of fouls and free throws. To combat this, West Virginia must play defense with its feet, cut off driving avenues, and force the Broncs away form direct routes to the hoop.
That doesn't mean they are totally inside oriented, however. WMU is 35-85 from three-point range through four games, which gives them a nice balance on offense. If the drives aren't there, the Broncos are perfectly happy to kick the ball out for a three.
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Might this West Virginia team be one that wins different ways against different foes? The Mountaineers have won games on the strength of their defense, in spite of shooting woes, and shooting very well. It has run the ball on occasion, and also showed some progress in its halfcourt sets. It already has more dunks and spectacular moves than last year's team, which won when it shot well and didn't turn the ball over.
Not that either way is superior. Wins are wins. But it seems, at least early on, that the 2006-07 edition of the Mountaineers are, if nothing else, adaptable.
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In both of Western Michigan's wins to date, the Broncos have forced misses on its foes' last possession of the game. Virginia Tech actually had three chances to either tie or take the lead, but failed miserably on each attempt.
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We're guessing that Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg, who ran screaming away from the prospect of continuing the basketball series against WVU, might not have been totally displeased with his team's loss to the Broncos. By gakking away a big lead, Greenberg and the Hokies managed to avoid a semi-final matchup with the Mountaineers.