Tonight's matchup against West Virginia could be a season-defining game for the Zags. With a limited amount of BCS competition on the schedule, a road win against a BCS program would be huge for Mark Few's club. For West Virginia, the game is equally important as they are also searching for a notable win in the 2013-14 season. To learn a bit more about the Mountaineers, we chatted with WVUIE97 from SB Nation's The Smoking Musket. Enjoy!
Slipper Still Fits: After a really rough 2012-13 stretch, what is the overall 'health' of the Mountaineer program? Are their fears that Huggins might not be the man in Morgantown or is last year perceived to be more of an anomaly?
WVUIE97: We sure hope it's an anomaly. I would hope most think the program is on an upward trend after a couple of down years. There are some who think Huggins has lost it a bit, but they are more of the kneejerk type. Huggs had an extremely uncharacteristic three straight recruiting classes blow up in his face for various reasons and with the results so far this year, we are back on the right track, even in two losses, but still very young (we have zero seniors).
SSF: West Virginia was selected to finish 7th in a deceptively strong Big 12. Is there a chance they can surprise and jump up into the top-half of the conference or is 7th about right?
WVUIE97: The chance is always there. Like I just said, we've got an extremely young team that is showing heart and promise that wasn't present last season. The best thing for this young team is just to play and get used to playing with each other. I do think we will be able to sneak up and beat some of the better teams, but how many remains to be seen. Win a few we aren't supposed to, gain some experience and this team could be one that could be increasingly hard to deal with for opponents as the year progresses.
SSF: What kind of atmosphere can we expect at the Coliseum on Tuesday? I keep reading that attendance has been very low thus far this season. Is there a good amount of buzz about this game in Morgantown?
WVUIE97: Attendance has been abysmal so far. Part of that is people jaded from the results of last year, part of it is...just what it is. There was an article by one of the beat writers recently on this subject and sometimes the attendance just doesn't make sense, regardless of the results, weather, etc. There does seem to be a bit of online buzz around the game and hopefully it will correspond to a nice crowd. That said, as of me typing this, there are still seats available. Hopefully the students can make a nice showing just before finals begin on Thursday.
SSF: Glancing quickly at stats, it seems like West Virginia employs a similar strategy to Gonzaga: score a bunch, worry about defense later. Is that a fair assessment or not?
WVUIE97: I don't think that's been the strategy, especially with Huggins calling the shots. We are able to score a lot easier than last season and shoot the ball much better, but with Huggins, there will always be a premium placed on defense and rebounding. But yes, defense and rebounding has been a struggle against the better teams, especially in the losses.
SSF: Gonzaga fans have two concerns about opposing teams this season: can they shoot from deep and do they rebound well. Hopefully your answer is no to both questions but I will let you respond.
WVUIE97: Yes and no. How's that? With the exception of the Missouri game, in which we were cold until the last few minutes, this team has been able to shoot well and shoot well from deep. With the exception of the Loyola game (we out-rebounded them by 40), rebounding has been a bit of an issue. We're hoping that game becomes more of the norm though, in all facets of the game.
Thanks to WVUIE97 for all his tremendous insights! Be sure to visit The Smoking Musket for more great Mountaineer discussion.
As a quick note, I also answered a couple questions for The Smoking Musket including this one:
WVUIE97: Are Bulldog fans still happy with Few and with where things are? Are they restless for a Final Four?
For my answer and more insights from the Gonzaga perspective, visit that piece which can be found here.