BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: WEST VIRGINA @ LOUISVILLE
January 9, 2008
Rick Pitino and his Louisville Cardinals look to earn their first Big East win of 2008 when they host an old nemesis, Bob Huggins, and his West Virginia Mountaineers at Freedom Hall tonight.
Here are the local media previews of tonight's game:
Could Be Another UofL-WVU Classic (Kentucky.com)
WVU Men;s Welcome Challenge of Facing Louisville (Times West Virginian)
WVU Needs Short Memory (Charleston Gazette)
It's Huggins vs. Pitino...Again (SI.com)
Cards Hope They are Over Hump (Louisville Courier-Journal)
Louisville is a home favorite tonight, but it is slight, just 2.5 points over the visiting Mountaineers. West Virginia hit the road once already in the Big East and lost at Notre Dame, suffering their worst offensive showing of the season in the process. Louisville was surprised by Cincinnati, at home, in their Big East opener on New Year's Day.
West Virginia rebounded from their loss to Notre Dame over the weekend by cruising past Marquette at home. The Mountaineers got back to the effecient offense that makes them very difficult to play and Bob Huggins has been mixing in several different defenses to incorporate his strategies while meeting the strengths of his players.
For Rick Pitino, things have not been easy. They have already been through injuries with seniors Juan Palacios and David Padgett and frustrations with a talented, but inconsistent sophomore class. Palacios had his most productive game since returning to the line-up from a knee injury in the Cards' 89-75 win over Kentucky last weekend. Padgett had a quality showing in his first game back, in the loss to Cincinnati, and will continue to get stronger. Both players add experience and an element of comfort for Pitino, they also offer options if sophomores Derrick Caracter and Earl Clark are not playing up to their massive potentials. Thus far, it can be hit or miss with the talented forwards.
As frustrated as Pitino has been with the play of his forwards, it has been sophomore point guard Edgar Sosa that has been the most puzzling situation. Sosa is naturally a scoring guard from the tough CHSAA league in New York City. Pitino is trying to get his sophomore guard to be more of a true point guard, but all too often Sosa's natural instinct to hunt out his own offensive opportunities take over. This has led to Sosa spending a lot of time on the bench, but his talent is definitely needed on the floor.
One player coach Pitino has no worries about in terms of effort is Terrence Williams, the athletically gifted 6'6 junior forward. Few have the athletic ability of Williams int he college game and he can hurt an opponent in many ways. The effort is always there, sometimes he can be a bit out of control and needs to allow the game to come to him. With the veteran presence of Palacios and Padgett in the line-up more, it should begin to work that way for Williams.
The backcourt is completed by Andre McGee and Jerry Smith, a pair of quality guards that are capable of scoring in a hurry, especially Smith, one of the best 3-pt shooters in the league. Will Scott adds a deep threat and Terrence Farley rounds out the frontcourt rotation.
For West Virginia, they have an experienced point guard in Darris Nichols who understands the importance of running the team and putting players in position to score. One of the things coach Huggins has tried to get Nichols to do more is be aggressive and show it is ok to make mistakes being aggressive. Nichols, a senior, can hit the perimeter shot and makes very few mistakes with the ball, almost ensuring WVU has a chance to score on each and every possession.
Nichols' backcourt mate is Alex Ruoff, a solid ballhandler, fundamentally sound defender and excellent 3-pt shooter. Joe Alexander is their go-to forward who plays within the system and uses lenght and ahtleticism to produce points and rebounds. The pair of juniors have progressed into all-league type of players in the Big East.
Maybe the west Virginia x-factor is DaSean Butler, a do-everyting 6'7 sophomore forward. Butler can shoot, pass, defend or just plain score. He is the type of player that excels in any system or any type of game. Again, he is one that can be too unselfish, but when WVU needs a play, he is typically the one to make it, on either side of the ball.
West Virginia's glaring weakness is inside presence. Jamie Smalligan is 7-foot in height, but is more prone to be out by the 3-pt line on offense. He will battle and hustle, but his game is not really suited for the physical Big East. A pair of forwards, Wellington Smith and John Flowers, are quickly developing into quality Big East reserves, capable of having good games against anyone and Jou Mazzulla adds quality depth to the backcourt.
Louisville got a much needed confidence boost with their win over Kentucky. No, Kentucky is not the Kentucky of old, or even the Lentucky of Tubby Smith circa 2006-2007, but winning on your rivals home floor with a dominating 2nd half can give you a lift. They need to carry the intensity back to the court tonight and defend the perimeter with their athleticism and hit the boards with their size. We are starting to see Louisville with the personnell they expected to have this year, maybe now we will start seeing the Louisville team we expected.
NBE Blogger Prediction: Louisville 74 West Virginai 69
Labels: 2007-2008 Game Previews