MORGANTOWN — Big Monday comes to little Morgantown tonight.
It’s a classic showdown, if there is such a thing in regular-season basketball, a Villanova team that is trying to bounce back from an ugly defeat, its second of the year and one that is sure to do away with its No. 2 national ranking, against a West Virginia University team that is starting to look like Destiny’s Darlings, if any team coached by rough, tough Bob Huggins can be the darling of anything.
These were the two top preseason picks in the Big East, Villanova selected to win the conference, and neither team has disappointed, although in this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world, Villanova’s 103-90 loss at Georgetown is not the prettiest girl at the dance.
“My concern is that defensively, we were terrible to start the game,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said after the game. “Offensively, we turned the ball over 16 times in the first half, and you can’t start a game like that.”
And it won’t get any easier in the Coliseum during a gold rush with a sold-out crowd that may not worry too much about threats from the administration about repercussions from another obscene performance after the embarrassment of the Pitt debacle.
Even before they worry about the crowd, the Wildcats and Wright have got something far more menacing to worry about and that is the huge shadow being cast by WVU’s Da’Sean Butler.
A year ago at this time Villanova came to Morgantown ranked No. 13 in the country, and brought everything with them but a game plan to stop Butler, who went off on a career high 43 points.
“Everyone has one team they play good against,” Butler said.
It was the third most points ever scored by a player in the Coliseum, Notre Dame’s Austin Carr having hit for 47 in 1971 and in that same year the Mountaineers’ Wil Robinson scoring 45 against Penn State.
Butler moved past Greg Jones (1,797) into fourth place in career scoring at West Virginia with 1,822 points. Butler needs 29 more to pass Wil Robinson (1,850) for third place in career scoring. Jerry West (2,309) and Hot Rod Hundley (2,180) are the school’s top two scorers.
There was no indication that Butler would go off against Villanova last year, coming off a Pitt game in which he went 2 for 12 from the floor, scoring just four points and fouling out after playing only 18 minutes.
He enters this game with a bit more momentum behind him, having devoured St. John’s for 33 points as the Mountaineers had to shake off a first-half upset bid by the Johnnies to win.
“This league is ridiculous it’s so good,” Huggins said after the game. “If you don’t come to play at St. John’s you lose. It’s so hard. It’s hard on them and the philosophy that it toughens you for the NCAA tournament, I hope that’s right.”
Even this Villanova game has Big East Tournament feel, at least for Huggins, who was snowed in with the team after Saturday’s game.
“It will be much like the Big East tournament,” he said. “We will be sitting in my room watching the Villanova tape trying to get ready to go play on Monday.”
Certainly, Huggins will have some kind of surprise for Villanova. With them sure to concentrate on stopping Butler, Huggins has a couple of options to change things up. It begins with Wellington Smith, who has suddenly emerged as the kind of player WVU had hoped he would be for four years.
Smith, who is mostly an inside type player, has emerged as a true 3-point threat, shooting better than 60 percent from the field and from 3-point range over the last five games. His 44.3 shooting percentage from 3 is in the league’s top 10.
Another option that would create tough matchups for Villanova on defense would be to use freshman Deniz Kilicli at center, the big man showing he is capable of dominating inside.
However, the matchup problem he creates is doubled by the defensive matchup problem he has against Villanova’s smaller, faster players, but it is an option for Huggins to explore.
E-mail Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mountaineers host No. 2 Villanova
MORGANTOWN — Big Monday comes to little Morgantown tonight.
- Bob Herzel
HERTZEL COLUMN: Irvin’s dreads are gone now he must rebuild reputation
A couple of days back Bruce Irvin sat down in a barber’s chair — stylist’s chair, if you prefer — and made a dramatic and what had to be traumatic move.
He had his dreadlocks removed.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Flying WV logo draws attention outside country
Sometimes you hit a nerve, as we did a while back when we wrote about the wide reach of West Virginia University’s flying WV logo.
It has meant a lot to a lot of people.
Seahawks’ Bruce Irvin suspended four games
Bruce Irvin, one of only two West Virginia University defensive linemen ever to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft, will miss the first four games of the 2014 National Football League season because of a failed test for performance-enhancing drugs.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Opportunity to see birth of greatness
Sometimes things happen and the significance of them isn’t fully grasped immediately. So it is with the approval of the TIFF financing for a baseball stadium just off I-79 here in Morgantown.
Obviously, this a boon for the West Virginia University baseball program of Randy Mazey, which gains instant creditability.
Musgrave ranks among top pitchers in college baseball
West Virginia University’s redshirt sophomore left-hander Harrison Musgrave’s spectacular season has reached the pinnacle of the heights a collegiate pitcher can attain as he has been named a finalist for the College Baseball Hall of Fame Pitcher of the Year Award.
Musgrave may be rested against OSU
It’s been a fun ride for West Virginia University baseball this season, coming out of nowhere to reach the final weekend with a chance to win the regular-season Big 12 championship.
But coach Randy Mazey is not allowing the Mountaineers to get carried away with that thought.
HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU Tier 3 bidding goals are ambitious
They are re-opening the bidding at West Virginia University’s athletic department for Tier 3 media rights, but judging by the vision they have shown in putting it together, this is becoming something as ambitious, if not profitable, as the national television deals in which they have a stake.
NFL draft signals new era for WVU
This year’s NFL draft signified that West Virginia University is beginning a new era of football, one that is very different from the time that passed in the previous 100 years.
HERTZEL COLUMN- Can money buy WVU happiness as Big 12 member?
=Let me put the dummies to rest right away.
Financially, moving to the Big 12 was the right move for West Virginia University.
WVU’s basketball team to play at Missouri
West Virginia University’s basketball team did nothing to merit it Tuesday, but its life in the Big 12 was just made a whole lot tougher on two levels.
- More Bob Herzel Headlines
- HERTZEL COLUMN: Irvin’s dreads are gone now he must rebuild reputation