Miami, like St. Louis, runs a three guard, two forward offense. Although that appears to help the shorter WVU squad on the surface, it in fact works against them as they can struggle to match up with a smaller, speedier backcourt.
Two of the three starting guards are freshmen, Armondo Surratt and Robert Hite. Hite earned his way into the starting lineup in only the second game of the season, and is averaging eight points and four rebounds per contest. Suratt, along with fellow guard Mike Simmons, aren't big scoring threats, but help power the Hurricanes' pressure defense. Surrat is also the team's playmaker, averaging more than three assists per outing.
The bulk of the offensive production comes from a pair of rangy and talented forwards. Preseason first team all-conference pick Darius Rice, with running mate James Jones, average 35 points and 13 rebounds between them. Jones and Rice are the only Canes averaging more than 30 minutes per contest, and also the only players averaging double figures in points. That's not due to a lack of ability, but rather to head coach Perry Clark's ten man rotation, which he employs to wear opponents out.
Although Briggs doesn't start, and is just averaging in the low double figures in minutes played, there's a sneaking suspicion that he might play a bigger factor in this game.
WVU 8-3, 0-0
UM 7-4, 0-0
|Tue 1/7 7:00 PM|
UM leads 6-5
|TV: ESPN Regional|
WVU - 106
UM - 136
|Line: WVU -1|
WVU will have to have more than 6-10 Kevin Pittsnogle to answer these challenges, and no one is better equipped to handle those than Briggs. Chaz has good shotblocking ability and the presence to harass opposing scorers inside. He also is one of the few Mountaineers who has a combination of the strength and leaping ability to successfully rebound in the lane.
Rice is a player in the mold, if not quite the same level of talent, as a Kevin Garnett or a Tracy McGrady. Briggs will have to use some muscle to keep Rice out of the lane -- otherwise, the Hurricanes will swamp WVU with a tidal wave of second shots and easy stickbacks.
It won't be all inside work, either, as Rice is adept at hitting the three, and is comfortable on the wing as well as swooping to the hoop. Among WVU defenders, Briggs, along with Tyrone Sally, figure to have the best chance to match up with the future NBA lottery pick.
UM: William Frisby (Foot) Out
Miami will bring a pressure-oriented defense to the floor of the Coliseum, and that style will be a difficult challenge for the Mountaineers to overcome. Ten Hurricanes average at least twelve minutes per contest, so expect to see frequent substitutions as Miami traps and pressures the ball all over the floor.
The Hurricanes have been very successful with this defense so far, averaging more than ten steals per game, which often lead to easy offensive opportunities. Miami gets away with the gambling style because they have a great shot blocker in the back of the defense in Jones. The Canes swat 5.2 shots per game, a number they figure to equal or better in this game.
The Hurricanes aren't all run and gun, however. They do an excellent job of pacing their offense to make sure than Jones and Rice get numerous opportunities to handle the ball in the halfcourt. Playing an uptempo game can sometimes leave frontcourt men out of the action, but that doesn't happen often with Miami.
For the Mountaineers to have a chance to win, they must keep their turnovers in the low teens, shoot the ball well, and avoid the long dry stretches that have plagued them at times this year. Miami held North Carolina without a field goal for an incredible run of more than twelve minutes during the end of regulation and overtime. A performance of even half that length would likely give WVU a loss in its conference opener.
Jones and Rice will likely get their points, no matter what WVU does to combat them. If West Virginia can keep the other Hurricanes in check, however, they have a chance at pulling off a win.
Miami has never played more than three overtime games in a season, but they have already equalled that mark this year. The Hurricanes lost to Florida Atlantic and Florida by one point each, but defeated North Carolina on Saturday.
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Over the last four years, which school has the best record in Big East road games? You guessed it -- Miami at 22-11. Of course, the vagaries of the Big East's basketball schedule may have contributed to that mark, but it's still impressive, no matter who the opponents were.
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Miami opened their new on-campus Convocation Center with a win over North Carolina on Saturday. The $48 million dollar facility was totally funded by private donations. Could WVU come close to matching that?