Hit The Road, Jack

Head coach John Beilein joked that he's forgotten how to prepare for a road trip, so long has it been since the Mountaineers have ventured away from the supportive home fans at the WVU Coliseum.

"After an incredible homestand, I didn't know how to pack my bags today," Beilein kidded as he discussed upcoming road games with Notre Dame on Tuesday and Marquette on Saturday. "Usually I have a system to going on the road. But we won't have any trouble with that in the next month, and I'm looking forward to it to see how we react to it all."

West Virginia plays five of its next eight games on the home court of opposing teams, with a sixth, against Marshall, at the neutral site of the Charleston Civic Center. WVU will thus find out more about the nature and ability of its young team during that stretch.

The Mountaineers, who leapt to 21st in this week's coaches' poll, are still a work in progress according to Beilein, who still isn't ready to label his team as "pretty good", as one interrogator suggested.

"I don't think I know that yet," Beilein said when asked when he knew his team was pretty good. "I will know that when we go on the road and win some games. Seriously, there's not a team in the league that opened up with three home games. And our non-conference schedule had some teams that should have been tough games, but it ended up they were rebuilding. I know we are 13-1, but in a couple more weeks you might be able to judge us better. The kids and the coaching are staff trying to get better. And it's not that we can't do it, but I haven't seen it yet. Last year I had seen the mental toughness of a team that was going on the road and winning against great teams."

The 2006-07 Mountaineers haven't done that yet, but mostly because they haven't had the opportunity. WVU's only true road game was a win over depleted Duquesne in Pittsburgh, and no one is going to mistake the A.J. Palumbo Center for road venues likes those of Notre Dame, Pitt or Rutgers. Thus, Beilein knows that playing, and winning, on the road are big challenges for his team, and he simply doesn't have much evidence to suggest how his young charges are going to handle the tough fans in those places.

"We have never been able, in the years I have been here, to [get a win there]," Beilein said of the Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center, site of Tuesday's Notre Dame matchup. Because they had some terrific teams, those games were 10-20 some points. It's one of those places on the road where we haven't been able to win yet. It would be nice to get one, but it will be very, very difficult. It would be a terrific win for this team if we could upset them.

"I'm not nervous about going on road. I'm looking forward to it, and I'm curious about it. Like many teams at our level, we haven't played many road games yet. We will try to prepare in practice today for a hostile environment. The Notre Dame crowd is clever and loud, and sometimes they make our guys smile at the same time they are being harassed."

RIFLE REPORTS

Beilein believes there are some similarities between his team and this year's edition of the Fighting Irish.

"Notre Dame is not a power team. They have guys who play with power, but they are similar to us in that they are a catch it and shoot it or drive it team. They might throw it into the block a little more than we do, and they can rebound it. But they are more of a finesse team."

The Irish guards, Colin Falls and Russell Carter, are a big part of Notre Dame's success to date. The Irish fell out of the coaches' Top 25 after a road loss to Georgetown, but are poised to reenter with a successful week (they are just 26 points behind #25 Maryland).

"Falls has been a big time presence there for four consecutive years," Beilein noted. "He beat us with a three in the Big East tournament. And Carter has waited patiently to play. Falls takes about 80% of his shots from three-point range, and Russell is about half and half. He has the ability to draw a lot of fouls. Both are very high percentage shooters. They are very, very talented."

* * *

Beilein on Frank Young: "He has been as important to the turnaround of this program as anyone. He never had the numbers some of the other guys had, but his leadership and commitment to his team have been incredible in this era."

* * *

Beilein on Devan Bawinkel, who was the subject of some questions by a writer from his hometown newspaper:

"We talked to all our freshmen about redshirting, and he elected not to do so. It was probably a good decision for him. Like 95% of other freshmen, he has good days and average days. But he has been a great performer off the bench for us. Our system is hard for kids to learn – of our eight freshmen only one picked it up very quickly. He is getting about ten minutes per game, and the challenge will be to see if that continues during the Big East season. We love his attitude and what he has brought to the team."


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