"Both teams are in transition," head coach John Beilein agreed when analyzing the two squads. "Both had senior-laden teams that were really successful. Both teams lost most of their scoring."
The teams, however, are conducting that rebuilding in a slightly different manner. N.C. State is working from a short bench, featuring mostly a seven-player rotation to date. Beilein, who usually operates from an eight-man wheel, has played ten and eleven players for significant stretches in many of WVU's early games. It's expected that the veteran coach will begin to whittle that number down as the conference schedule approaches, but that leaves five more non-conference games in which to do so before WVU opens Big East play against Connecticut on Dec. 30.
True to his nature, Beilein didn't panic when Frank Young went through a shooting slump early in the year. While some breathless critics (media and otherwise) clamored for a change and demanded to know "what was wrong" with Young, Beilein held firm.
"I didn't know what to do, but I knew I didn't want to overreact," said Beilein, thus illustrating the value that sometimes is realized by not taking rash action. "He is such a steady performer. I told him, ‘You are a good player, you are going to make shots, it's just a matter of time. I don't think you have to make incredible shots to lead this team.'
"If Frank hits three threes in a game we have a pretty good record, I believe. Ever since the Boston College game in the Big East tournament, he has been a more dominant player in our lineup. We want him to get to the foul line more, drive it more, rebound more, and scrap more."
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Beilein was pleased with the progress his team showed over the ten-day layoff since the Arkansas game.
"I like how our team chemistry is going. We had a really good practice on Sunday from that standpoint. It showed the team is really communicating well. That's something we need. We lost so much from last year in not only personnel but also in personality, and I like the personality I've seen in the last week."
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Just as in his first year on the job, Beilein has a rebuilding team ready to face a national name in Charleston in December. Five years ago, the opponent was Florida, while this year it's N.C. State. While the common perception is that this year's team is better equipped to take on such a challenge, Beilein notes that the first team actually had a huge advantage in one area.
"That first game we had a team with lots of game experience," he reminded. "Drew Schifino, Josh Yeager, Chaz Briggs and Tyrone Sally had all played a lot, and Joe Herber had tons of international experience. We don't have that now. That doesn't mean we are far behind, but that team had a lot more experience than this one does.
"For example, Joe Alexander, by game two this year, had taken more shots than he had taken in 33 games last year. We are a much younger team this year."
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WVU has struggled in the shooting department during recent trips to Charleston, but Beilein doesn't think that's anything more than a coincidence.
"It's not our home court, but we play 14 or 15 road games, and we've shot well at some of those places. And we certainly shot pretty darned well at the Milk House (the venue for the Old Spice Classic in Orlando). We've had some situations where we didn't shoot well against Marshall the past couple of years, but we certainly won't make an issue out of it. We'll do our normal shootarounds and normal game day routine."