Although both phases of play have had their ups and downs, the 2009-10 Mountaineers certainly have the talent to guard anyone in the country, and they'll see their biggest challenge of the season to date when they go head-to-head with the No. 5 Syracuse Orangemen.
Senior forward DaSean Butler is looking to the game as a chance of redemption after suffering a disappointing loss on the road to Notre Dame. Although the Mountaineers have struggled early in recent games, Butler foresees his team having no trouble getting excited to face Syracuse.
"If you can't get ready for this game, I would say you shouldn't play," said Butler. "They have good players. They have a great coach who has pretty much seen everything possible in college basketball – just like ours. It's going to be very difficult but we don't plan on falling behind to this team. We plan on staying in the game."
Although the majority of the hype surrounding Saturday's match-up has been focused on both teams' position in the Top 10, Butler believes that facing the Orangemen would be a big game whether they were ranked or not.
"Every game is a great opportunity for us, an opportunity to win," said Butler. "It would be a good win even if they weren't ranked because they have a great coach and they always have a great team. It would be a quality win regardless."
Although Syracuse has been impressive with their shooting and offensive balance this season, the Mountaineers will have to make sure and not count them out on the defensive side of the equation. The Orange's 2-3 zone, played with underlying man-to-man principles, is a tough nut to crack.
"[Syracuse] is very aggressive in their zone this year," said Butler. "It's a little bit different from last year. You just have to keep moving and you can't let them lull you to sleep in the zone because that's what happens with a lot of teams. [On offense], they make open shots. They get a lot of them. We need to make sure that we take good shots and that none of our shots start off a fast break for them to go and get easy points."
Butler is looking forward to facing off against Syracuse's leading scorer, junior forward Wes Johnson. Johnson will be coming into the Coliseum averaging 17 points and nine rebounds per game.
"He's a good player," said Butler. "I'm looking forward to playing against him. We will just have to see what happens. They have a lot of good players, a lot of very aggressive players. They have a lot of big players that can score in the paint. It should be fun to see how we match up against them and how hard we play."
The Mountaineers will have two obstacles to overcome when they face Syracuse. Not only will they obviously be facing the players on the court but they will also be up against hall of fame head Coach Jim Boeheim.
"[Coach Boeheim] controls what they do," said Butler. "At the same time, they are the players and they have their own minds and he lets them play. They go out and play as hard as they can and do whatever they can. You have to go against the coaches schemes and match whatever they're doing and then you have to go against how hard the players are playing."