Deep breaths everyone. Big East basketball is upon us, and it isn't an easy opening game. The Villanova Wildcats travel to Morgantown for a date with the West Virginia
Hill People Mountaineers. Never an easy place to play, things will be enhanced by the fact that Villanova is throwing 5 guys that didn't exactly instill confidence at Temple or St. Joe's into a similarly hostile setting.
West Virginia has a great coach and is led by a Big East Player of the Year candidate, a seasoned point guard and one of the best freshman in the league. This will not be easy, or likely, pretty to watch.
After The Jump we'll take a closer look at the 'Eers.
WV starts with the phenomenal Kevin Jones. Not a big-name recruit when he arrived, he's now a name that everybody around the conference knows. Jones can shoot it from the outside and can take it down low and bang with, quite literally, anyone at 6'8" and 260 pounds. He is the ultimate offensive force for my money in the conference. It's really pick your poison with him as he's averaged 21 ppg and 11.9 rpg. Those are staggering numbers. Right now, I have no idea what Villanova will do. Markus Kennedy isn't quick enough for him on the perimeter and James Bell will struggle to contain him down low. We have a problem.
Another familiar face for 'Nova fans will be Darryl 'Truck' Bryant at the point guard spot. Bryant is a guy who has torched 'Nova in the past, and on other occasions has probably made Bob Huggins think he doesn't know what team he's playing for. Truck is a score-first PG and can be either really hot, or really cold. It all really depends on what night it is. But when he's on, he's very on. So 'Nova will need to hope that Maalik Wayns does a good job containing him.
Time for a freshman alert. Jabarie Hinds quite good. He can fill up the cup in a hurry (7-11 from the field in the OT loss to #7 Baylor) and despite standing just 5'11", poses very good quickness and an ability to get into the lane. Despite averaging just 8 ppg this season, he's a guy that when left open ('Nova never does that!) will make you pay. He's not played a starring role (at least not much as expected) but a lot of that is due to Bryant and Jones carrying the load for this team. Hinds does lead the team in assists, which is always impressive for a freshman PG.
Deniz Kilicli will anchor the front line for Huggy Bear's squad. The big Turk typicially looks like the asshole who fires the rifle at WVU games, but he's a solid finisher with either hand down low and and it should be a great battle with Mouphtaou Yarou as usual as they play a similar game. If Villanova has any chance, Yarou will need to really own this matchup because Kevin Jones is likely to decimate us on the other side of the frontcourt.
WVU's bench is led by tweener forward Kevin Noreen, and also contains forward Aaron Brown and guard Gary Browne. Aaric Murray transferred from La Salle in the offseason so he'll be sitting this one out, but not so surprisingly, he was arrested the other day in Philadelphia over the holiday break for possession of marijuana.
For more on West Virginia, check out The Smoking Musket.
WEST VIRGINIA PROBABLE STARTING LINEUP
Darryl "Truck" Bryant
Prediction: Ugh. This has the potential to get seriously ugly. Before their great performance against Baylor I would have said we have a shot to make this interesting. Now, I doubt it. WV by 14 - 79-65.
The game is being broadcast on WPHL in Philly (and in you're lucky, SNY in NY, but I can't confirm that as I'm in South Carolina) and begins at 7 pm ET. We'll have our game thread up at 6:30. See you there!