Valued Wins

Head coach John Beilein probably thinks more of WVU's win over South Florida than most observers, but he's certainly correct that every win in the rugged Big East is, to use one of his standard euphemisms, "like gold".

"I thought last night was a great win from the standpoint that we are such a young team and had been on a road," Beilein said on Thursday. "We got off to a good start, and got out by 10 or 11 points, then held on in the second half.

"It was the first [Big East] game with our students on campus, and every student seat was filled. It was just a really good win for a young team."

West Virginia's home Big East schedule has long been a punching bag for the league office, which typically gives the Mountaineers some of their biggest home dates during the time students are away on semester break. WVU's first three league games, against conference heavyweights Connecticut, Villanova and (in name at least) St. John's, came during that time.

WVU's remaining four home games (DePaul, Pittsburgh, Seton Hall and Cincinnati) give the Mountaineers a realistic shot at a 7-1 home league record. West Virginia will likely only be an underdog to the Panthers in that quartet of contests.


Beilein hasn't spent much time yet looking at Cincinnati.

"I spent most of this morning redoing the South Florida game," the busy head coach said. I have only looked at the box scores and the write-ups on Cincinnati. But they came close to doing what most of us haven't done, and that's win at the Carrier Dome." (The Bearcats dropped a one-point decision to the Orange on Wednesday evening.) "They are obviously a talented team that is coming together."

Assistant coaches Mike Maker, Matt Brown and Jerry Dunn rotate scouting duties for upcoming opponents, but Beilein also peruses plenty of film himself in preparation for each game.

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Beilein has been pleased, for the most part, with some of the adjustments and tinkerings he has implemented over the past couple of games. Those include putting Frank Young at the point of the 1-3-1 defense and shortening his rotation to eight players.

"I think the adjustments have been good," he analyzed. "It's not easy to make them and get the players comfortable playing different positions. It's all part of the process – a term I use often – of figuring out what is the best way for this team to achieve. What I've learned by coming up way I did – head coaching at a lot of small schools -- is that you have to be versatile. You can't say, ‘You can't win because we don't have a specific type of player.' You have to be versatile and adapt, and have players that can adapt."

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Beilein was once again asked if he was surprised that his rebuilding team is enjoying so much success.

"I am never surprised, and I am asked that question every day," he said with good humor for one that had just heard that query for the umpteenth time this year. "If we were the opposite right now, I probably wouldn't be surprised either. I just expect us to practice and play hard every day and get better. We did have a fortuitous home schedule, and we played well in December. We had a lot of confidence, but hitting the Big East is a different deal."

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Beilein, who is always quite gracious with the media, did deliver the slightest of jabs in noting that he had "heard about our two game slump" from some media sources. Quite rightly, the veteran coach observed that winning on the road in the Big East is among the toughest tasks in the country.

"You have to be one of the top 3-4 teams in the Big East to win on the road. Last year, I think we had two wins on road and we were third in the league. That's just the way it's going to be."

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Beilein also held up senior Frank Young as the perfect example of a player who has gone through "the process" and ended up as an outstanding player.

"Frank has done everything that I dream of. He's a guy who has gone through the process from not playing as a freshman to getting just a little bit of time as a sophomore, then coming in for Tyrone Sally, who was sick in the Big East tournament, and playing a big role. Then he was a complementary player last year with the five seniors. We never expected him to lead the Big East in three-pointers per game."

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