Mountaineer hoop team
Those who had high hopes for the 2009 West Virginia University Football Team might be reevaluating their assessment of the Mountaineers this week. Sure, there is still much for coach Bill Stewart's team to play for beginning this Friday night against fifth ranked Cincinnati, then in two weeks against Pitt. Thing is the football team has not looked sharp on defense and quarterback Jarrett Brown has been struggling in the passing game. Injuries are mounting as well.
That combination could doom the Mountaineers in Friday's nationally televised football game. The Bearcats have the most prolific offense the Mountaineers will see this season, but the offense was expected to trade punches with Cincinnati. It will take a much better effort than what we saw Saturday against Louisville for that to happen.
Turning to basketball, the WVU men's basketball team has been receiving plenty of pre season attention. The Mountaineers have been picked to finish as high as second in the Big East this season and have appeared as high as eight in one national poll. Coach Bob Huggins' third West Virginia team appears to have the weapons to make a nice run this season.
Four starters return from last season's NCAA team led by DaSean Butler and Devin Ebanks along with point guard Truck Bryant and Wellington Smith. Butler will be a senior and led the team in scoring last year while Ebanks came on late in his freshman season and showed why he was rated one of the best high school players in the country. Ebanks has added over 20 pounds to his slender frame and is considered a lottery pick in the next NBA draft.
But, four starters alone aren't enough to get the Mountaineers the attention they are receiving. They have replaced shooting guard Alex Ruoff with national junior college player of the year Casey Mitchell. Point guard Joe Mazzulla is back after missing much of last season after having shoulder surgery. Mazzulla's injury last season meant Huggins had to throw the freshman Bryant to the Big East wolves last year. The experience Bryant gained might make him the starter over Mazzulla. Either way, the point position is in good hands.
Another player who gained considerable experience last year, as a freshman, is Kevin Jones, but he has gained more than experience. The 6-8 Jones busted it in the weight room and has added 35 pounds and will play at 250 pounds this season. Smith, a senior, appears to remain the starter, but Jones has proven to be an excellent scorer inside and may ultimately get starters' minutes.
John Flowers saw meaningful minutes last year, but could find himself as far down in the rotation as nine or ten. Freshman Dalton Pepper is vying for playing time as is freshman big man Dan Jennings. This is a very deep basketball team, and a big challenge for Huggins will be getting everyone enough minutes to keep them happy.