Matter of Time

There's a difference in preparing to play a team that you faced just a couple of weeks ago, as opposed to one that was on the schedule early in the season, according to head coach John Beilein.

"It's never easy to prepare for a team, but a lot depends on when we played them," Beilein said on Monday before his team went through its primary practice session for the Providence Friars, who the Mountaineers face in the first round of the Big East Tournament on Wednesday evening. "If we were playing a team that we had faced earlier in the season, it would be a case of the coaches recalling a lot of what we did, but the players wouldn't. We just played Providence ten days ago, so we should recall more. But the same thing is true for Providence. They will recall a lot of West Virginia's game plan against them.

Also figuring into the rematch is a factor broached by Seton Hall's Bobby Gonzalez after WVU swept the Pirates in February. After cruising to a win in the first contest in New Jersey, Seton Hall put up a much tougher fight at the Coliseum, although the Mountaineers eventually prevailed. After that game, Gonzalez noted that the losing team usually changes tactics, while the winning team sticks to what worked, with the result that the game one winner is often put in the position of reacting to wrinkles it did not prepare for. If that's the case, it gives West Virginia a slight advantage should the Mountaineers choose to mix things up a bit.

Beilein, like most any coach, wouldn't admit to holding an advantage no matter how logical, so it's doubtful if he would endorse Gonzalez' thinking in this case. His viewpoint on the first game was much simpler.

"In looking at the game tape, we gave Providence a lot of open looks," he noted. "We just have to play better than we did last time, but I'm sure Providence will play better as well."

Part of the reason for the Friars' unopposed perimeter shots was WVU's strategy of doubling down on standout senior Herbert Hill, who is a deadly accurate shooter when he gets the ball in the lane. West Virginia routinely brought a wing from the 1-3-1 or the closest ball-side defender to help against Hill when he caught the ball with 15 feet of the hoop, and while that tactic held the Friar center to 12oints (six of which came in the game's final minutes), it also allowed the aforementioned open shots from mid- and long range. Whether West Virginia takes the Gonzalez route and adjusts, or counts on a couple fewer Friar three-pointers and a handful more of its own, will be the item to watch as the game unfolds.

"Hill developed over five years, just like Frank Young developed over four years here," Beilein observed. "That's a tribute to years of patience, great attitude and hard work. I just really admire those types of players. If they are ready to play earlier, that's great, but guys that have to wait their turn have the respect of all coaches. There aren't a lot of people who have the Scottie Reynolds type of freshman year. Frank and Hill certainly didn't so when they earn it that' the real news story for you."


Beilein certainly knows that his team needs one, and maybe two, wins in the league tournament to secure an NCAA bid. But he would not be drawn into an extended discussion, preferring to keep the focus on the near future.

"I don't care who you are, whether your are on the bubble or think you are a lock. You have to win," he said of the conference tournament. "That is the most important thing to us. You don't focus on thinking about whether you are in or not. You just focus on doing your best and winning."

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Beilein also had a theory as to why some of his players tend to get overlooked for all-conference honors. Forward Frank Young made the first team and forward Da'Sean Butler made the all-rookie squad, but point guard Darris Nichols was left off completely.

"I'm never surprised about our guys on all-league teams, because we play a team game. We have good players, and they are unselfish, but they tend to steal votes from each other. Would I vote for Darris Nichol? Yes. But coaches have different reasons for why they vote for different players. I'd vote for Joe Alexander and Alex Ruoff too, but I love my guys too much. I am prejudiced.

"I don't think it will affect Darris at all. He wants to win. I'm sure a lot of people were left off the ballot. It's tough company to get into, no matter how good you are, and there are 16 teams in the league. That's why it's so prestigious. But our guys are focused on what is important."

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