Preview: West Virginia - Rutgers

West Virginia embarks on a run of five games that it must win to have a chance at an NCAA at-large bid. First up, Rutgers.


The Scarlet Knights are again battling for a spot in the Big East tournament, but must get more production from its bench in order to do so. With only one player adding much scoring punch in a substitute role, Rutgers struggles to score enough points to stay in many league contests.

J.R. Inman (Jr., 6-9, 220 lbs.) leads the Scarlet Knights from his forward position. He averages 13 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, and can score in a variety of manners. He can make three-pointers, drive to the rim, get to the line and score off rebounds, which makes him RU's biggest threat.

Alongside Inman, Center Hamady Ndiaye contributes 5.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game. He is coming off his best career performance against Cincinnati, and looks to be hitting his stride just in time for Rutgers' stretch run. At 6-11 and 235 lbs., the sophomore from Senegal will be a challenge for West Virginia inside on both ends of the court. Jaron Griffin (Jr., 6-7, 210 lbs.) completes the front line from his swing position. He averages 7.8 points and 3.4 rebounds per contest, but like his teammates, is not the most accurate of shooters. He hits just 31.4% of his field goal tries.

In the backcourt, Anthony Farmer (Jr., 6-1, 190 lbs.) has broken into double figures with a 10.4 points per game average. He is the team's best overall three-point shooter, and is tied for the team lead in assists. Mike Coburn (Fr., 6-0, 195 lbs.) has performed well in his initial college season, recording 8.2 points per game and matching Farmer's assist total.

Of the bench, the pickings are thin, and when combined with Rutgers' low shooting percentage (39.8% overall, 30.8% from three-point range), coach Fred Hill isn't left with many scoring options. Corey Chandler (Fr., 6-2, 190 lbs.) tosses in 12.6 points and added 3.9 rebounds per game, numbers which put him in the starting lineup approximately half the time this year, but when he's in that spot, the Scarlet Knights don't have much more oomph off the pine. No other player averages more than 3.2 points per outing, although Byron Joynes (Sr., 6-9, 265 lbs.) does chip in 5.3 rebounds in his 19 minutes per game on the floor.

In addition to its shooting woes, the Scarlet Knights don't take care of the ball well. With 382 turnovers (and just 229 assists to offset that figure), Rutgers has the double whammy of giving the ball away too much, and not being efficient with it when it does. That's a recipe for a spot near the bottom of the league, and its one that will have to be changed if the Knights hope to make a move up the conference ladder.


There's no sugar coating this one. West Virginia needs a convincing win over the Scarlet Knights, if for no other reason than to help mend its ailing psyche.
Game Info
Thu Feb 14
7:00 p.m.

WVU Coliseum
WVU 16-7, 5-5
RU 10-15, 2-10
WVU 40-26
Sirius Channel: 127
WVU - 42
RU - 201
Whether West Virginia's state of mind comes from recent narrow losses, commentary on play or elsewhere, the fact is that this team needs wins. It has no margin for error, and has to win at least six of its remaining eight conference games in order to have even a chance at an at-large NCAA bid. (It also likely would need at least one win in the Big East tournament under that scenario, but that's a topic for another day.) Games against teams in the middle of the pack, or at the bottom of the league, simply have to go into the win column.

The fly in this particular ointment, however, is that Rutgers typically plays West Virginia well. Other than Seton Hall, the Scarlet Knights' most intense games often come against the Mountaineers. Whether it's the New Jersey tie of many Garden state students that attend West Virginia, or the city vs. country angle, there is often a buzz around this game that other standard league games don't match.

Rutgers, at 2-10, is fighting for its Big East tournament life, and without a late season winning streak will again not be making the short trip to Madison Square Garden. However, if it can't make that one, it would surely enjoy the return trip from Morgantown after an upset win.

WVU has been in a downward spiral of late, and needs something – anything – good to happen. A convincing win over Rutgers, featuring solid defensive play, a lack of mental lapses and some respectable shooting, could be the first step in West Virginia's fight to the Big Dance. Although the opponent in the red jerseys might not be the equivalent of a Georgetown or a Pittsburgh, that's not an important issue at this point. WVU needs a win – in fact, it probably needs to win its next five in a row – and it doesn't have any time to waste.


WVU: Alex Ruoff (Nose) Probable

RU: None reported


The Scarlet Knights are one overtime game away from matching their season-high for overtime contests in Big East regular season play, having played two such contests (both losses) this season. In 2005-06, RU played in three overtime games in the league regular season, recording a 1-2 mark. On Jan. 11, 2006, and Jan. 15, 2006, Rutgers played back-to-back overtime games, losing to No. 3 Villanova 84-78 in overtime at the RAC and then defeating DePaul 78-68 in overtime on the road. On Feb. 1, 2006, RU fell at Syracuse 86-84 in overtime. Since joining the Big East, RU is 3-6 in overtime games against conference opponents

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Joe Mazzulla is averaging 25.2 minutes per game in the last six games. In two of those games, he had 11 points at USF and at Providence before posting a career-high 15 points at Pitt. Against Pitt, he was 6-of-7 from the field, including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. Might this be the game where he breaks into the starting lineup?

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Rutgers provides a stat for "Charges Drawn", in its game information, which is something that very few schools do. The attention to that area of defensive play is one that other SIDs should emulate. For the year, Byron Joynes leads the team with 19 charges taken.

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Many schools provide mentoring programs for their student-athletes, but Rutgers does so in a unique manner. Each current Scarlet Knight is assigned a former Rutgers men's basketball letterwinner as a mentor. The mentors draw upon their experiences as both students and current professionals to provide each player a valuable resource, both on and off the court.

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