The Kinder Garden - 11/4/02

A few midweek thoughts on various topics in and around the Mountaineer sports landscape.

Have you noticed all the recognition the Big East Conference is getting for its rise in football prowess? Me neither.

When the Big East was down a few years ago, there was no dearth of media hacks circling like vultures to feed on what they believed to be a rotting corpse.

Fast forward a few seasons. The Big East has two teams in the BCS top ten, another in both top 25 polls, and two more (including West Virginia) receiving votes. So why no notice?

Part of it, in my opinion, is the fact that it's always easier to rip something than to praise it. That's human nature, and not just limited to sportswriters and broadcasters.

Many journalists also may be afraid to praise something for the fear that they may be perceived as "homers". That shouldn't stop them, however, from giving credit where it is due. The Big East is a tough conference this year.

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I was relaly impressed with the low turnover total that the Mountaineer basketball team turned in in their exhibition opener against Latvia Select. (Or maybe that should be Latvia De-Select. I'll be the first to admit that the Latvians weren't good.)

Still, WVU committed only nine turnovers in the contest, which is very low for a team that is learning an entirely new offensive system. And it's not like the coaches have a set system that they are putting in and simply repeating practice after practice.

"Our offense isn't a matter of us installing our system," head coach John Beilein said after the game. "We'll continue to change and adapt it to the strengths of our players."

With changes being made constantly as the offense evolves, the potential for confusion abounds. Players who are unsure of the offense, and are thinking aobut where they need to cut next or who they are supposed to throw the ball to, oftn play tentatively. At this level, tentative play results in turnovers.

While we did see some of that during the game, West Virginia took good care of the basketball on Monday. After last season's parade of twenty turnover games, it was a refreshing sight.

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Let's be honest. How many of you thought that WVU's undersized defensive front could effectively stuff the run this year? LEt's have a show of hands. One, two...that's about it.

My hand certainly wasn't raised. Even though I knew the Mountaineer defense would try to combat the run by outnumbering and outquicking the opposition this year, I thought that some rushing attacks, like Wisconisn's and Miami's, would be able to overpower WVU.

The West Virginia defense, as well as the defensive coaching staff, should be congratulated for a job well done. Yes, I know that by stopping the run they've left some holes in the pass defense. But the results, in the form a a 6-3 record, can't be argued with.

WVU has some huge challenges remaining. Boston College features a mammoth offensive line. Virginia Tech's rushing ability speaks for itself, and Pitt's rushing attack will also present some different looks. Based on their performance to date, though, I'm not betting against the Mountaineers' ability to slow, if not stop, their remaining opponents' ground attacks.


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