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March Madness: Previewing Villanova-West Virginia with The Smoking Musket

Catherine sat down with Matt Kirchner of The Smoking Musket to get the deets, girlfriend

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament Championship-West Virginia vs Kansas William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

In advance of Friday’s match-up with the West Virginia Mountaineers, we stopped on by SBNation’s resident WVU blog, The Smoking Musket, to learn a little more about our former conference foes. Special thanks to Matt Kirchner for taking the time to answer some questions!

So, before we get started, your game against Marshall was a bigger deal than the average fan would realize. Fill us in on this lesser known “rivalry.”

We’re the two division one universities in a very small state, so there’s a lot that comes with that. In football, the rivalry has never been anything. Chad Pennington and Randy Moss’ Marshall team was relatively soundly beaten by a painfully average WVU team and the closest Marshall has ever came to winning a game was a home game in which they led 21-6 in the fourth quarter and proceeded to fumble at the goal line twice and gave up two consecutive 98 drives to Geno Smith to lose the game.

In basketball, it’s a little different because Marshall *has* beaten WVU, including a couple of our better teams. It’s a rivalry, but it serves no purpose for West Virginia to play a home and home. We used to play once a year at a neutral site (with the universe’s worst rims) and that was fine. It was a chance for West Virginia fans in the southern part of the state to see a game.

It’s very much a little brother situation and suffice it to say, grinding them into a fine paste after two days of chirping was cathartic.

West Virginia is obviously known for their press. What are your feelings going into this match-up with Villanova? Does West Virginia go in with the full-court press or does the game plan change? Three-quarter press? Something different?

Bob Huggins threw out a wrinkle against Marshall that we haven’t seen all season in a switch to a 1-2-2 pressure look that we haven’t seen all season and it absolutely devastated Marshall. Obviously you’re just slightly more talented, so it won’t have quite the same effect but I can see Huggins going back to that look. The hallmark of Huggins with this press is that his adjustments seemingly come out of nowhere and hit the opponent hard.

We don’t have the depth to go as completely insane with chaotic traps as we have in the last three years so we will occasionally drift into John Beilein’s 1-3-1 zone that Joe Mazzulla actually taught Huggins when he arrived at West Virginia after Beilein went to Michigan.

Besides the press, what should Villanova fans know about West Virginia’s style of play?

When we’re not running in transition, we’re going to be running a slow-down motion offense that isn’t pretty. The biggest key for West Virginia besides forcing turnovers is getting second chance shots when the offense bogs down. That’s a when, not an if, by the way. If West Virginia isn’t forcing a ton of turnovers it has to be getting 15-20 more shots off than its opponents, otherwise it can get ugly. We have shooters who can get hot but significantly lack consistently outside of Jevon Carter, which leads me to the next question.

Give us the skinny on Jevon Carter.

You have Jalen Brunson, so look in a mirror. Battles between veteran point guards are my favorite thing about the NCAA tournament, and this may be the best one of the bunch. These are two guys who you will have to drag out of the NCAA tournament kicking and screaming, and seeing them go at it for 40 minutes will be outstanding. Jevon’s defense is second to none, and he’s developed so much offensively since his first year here.

He can struggle with shot selection and hero ball if the offense bogs down, but you take that when you get everything else he provides.

Besides Jevon Carter, who else does Villanova need to watch out for?

Definitely Sagaba Konate, who would have been defensive player of the year in the Big 12 if Jevon Carter didn’t exist. He’s perhaps the best shot blocker in the country and has developed strong post offense skills as well as a decent-okay mid range jumper. If he stays out of foul trouble, West Virginia is almost impossible to beat. Therein lies the rub, though, because he’s really our only good big. If Nova can get two quick fouls on Konate, West Virginia is in the Sterling Archer Memorial Danger Zone.

Outside of that, we boast another Senior guard in Daxter Miles who will either be a non-factor or an unstoppable supernova of death. You’ll know which one by the first TV timeout.

We used to be conference foes back before we collectively elected to abandon UConn. How has life changed since you joined the Big 12?

Outside of the travel, which is awful (our mid-season slide was created by almost constant Saturday-Monday Home-Road trips), it’s been a great cultural fit, especially in football. Being in a league of mostly land-grant schools is a good cultural change from being in a much more private school driven league like the Big East. The fanbases are, for the most part, great to interact with and it’s awesome for our fans to experience football games at Texas and Oklahoma and basketball games at the Phog.

Nothing, though, will ever replicate the old Big East basketball experiences and things like our 2010 run to the BET championships are memories that I will always cherish. We’ve made three straight trips to the championship of the Big 12 Tournament and it’s just nowhere close. Kansas City isn’t The Garden.

Prepare a haiku about Bob Huggins

Huggins versus Wright

An All-Time Fashion Duel

Windbreaker shall prevail.

Will the Mountaineer be able to bring his firearm to Massachusetts?

I actually don’t know the true answer to this, but it’s been barred from arenas in the past so I’m guessing no.

What is Kevin Pittsnogle doing these days?

He is a Very Large Gym Teacher in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia and was just inducted to the WVU Hall of Fame.

Mike Gansey is the number two in the Cavs front office and was not. This is an injustice.

What’s your prediction for the game?

I’m going with my heart instead of my head. I think Jevon barely outduels Jalen and West Virginia escapes with the hardest fought win of the season.

Like I said, heart instead of head.