Getting busy next week
Fans of West Virginia University athletics will have a fine viewing schedule next week beginning on Thanksgiving Eve. That’s when the Mountaineer basketball team will kick off the season by taking on Texas A&M in the first game of the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. COVID 19 has changed the look and feel of this eight-team event. Originally this was supposed to be The Battle for Atlantis in the Bahamas with quite an impressive field.
Since the venue change from the tropics to the potentially snowy plains of South Dakota, heavyweights Duke, Ohio State and Utah have left the field. They were replaced by St. Mary’s, Utah State and South Dakota State. WVU, A&M, Memphis, Creighton and Wichita State remained in the field. Assuming COVID doesn’t rear its ugly head and further disrupt this tournament, WVU will meet the Aggies in the opener next Wednesday at 2 p.m. on ESPN. That’s likely not a great start time for many WVU fans.
The winner of that game will meet the Saint Mary’s vs Memphis winner at noon on Turkey Day. The loser will play at 5 p.m. on Thursday. Friday’s games are scheduled for 1:30, 4 , 6:30 and 9 p.m. All games are scheduled for ESPN or ESPN2.
Expectations are high for the basketball team this season with glowing reports coming out of practice regarding just about everyone on the team. Deuce McBride has stepped up his game, even after an eye-opening freshman campaign. Sean McNeil and Taz Sherman, who showed flashes of good long range shooting last season, have raised their confidence level. Freshmen Jalen Bridges and Isaiah Cottrell have impressed a few who have had access to practice.
Huggins praised center Derek Culver at a recent press conference. Huggins says Culver has clearly had an edge on the rest of his teammates so far. “The person who dominates in practice is Derek,” Huggins said. “Derek’s team generally wins all the time. Derek gets the majority of the rebounds and they look to throw it inside to Derek quite a bit, particularly when it is a close situation in practice.”
The Mountaineer football team gets a much needed week off this week after playing five weeks in a row. They cap off the holiday weekend next Saturday as they host nemesis Oklahoma. WVU has yet to beat the Sooners since joining the Big 12. West Virginia should have some momentum coming off an impressive 24-6 win over TCU last week.
Once again, the defense had a stellar day led by Tony Fields’ 14 tackles including eight solo stops. Tykee Smith was named Big 12 defensive player of the week with nine tackles and an interception. All week preceding the game fans were kept in the dark as to the availability of WVU’s leading rusher Leddie Brown who was dinged in the Texas game a week earlier.
Not only did Brown play, but he did so brilliantly, carrying the ball 24 times for 156 yards. Even so, it was receiver T.J. Simmons who took Big 12 offensive player of the week honors for catching four passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns.
On the negative side of the ledger the Mountaineers were back to being penalty prone as they were flagged 10 times for 85 yards.