For some more insight into the Zags’ next opponent, we reached out to The Smoking Musket, SB Nation’s West Virginia Moutaineers blog, to learn a bit more.
TSSF: It has been a few years since West Virginia and Gonzaga faced each other. After three games, it still seems like the standard hard-nosed defensive Huggy bear squad. On the offensive end, who are the key members of this squad?
SM: The defense is a bit different from the last time we matched up, we’re not Press Virginia anymore, but it’a still very much the same Huggins defense. On the offensive end, everything runs through the post. Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe are huge keys, their ability to rebound the glass gives us a buffer. That said, the real key is Emmit Mattthews Jr. and his ability to shoot and take people off the dribble.
TSSF: WVU was picked to finish third in the conference in the preseason poll. Assuming we get a normal sized March Madness, how deep into the tourney can WVU go?
To an extent, I think it depends on seeding, but also on the development of the guards and the consistency of Emmitt Matthews as a slasher. If Deuce McBride’s development continues then this is a team that can go deep.
TSSF: Gonzaga (through two games) is the nation’s top offense (and honestly will probably end up that way at the end of the year). What does West Virginia need to do on the defensive end to stop the scoring onslaught?
WVU doesn’t have many weaknesses defensively, but I think the fluidity and speed which the Zags play presents a few issues. The biggest of those is probably that we tend to overplay helpside defense.
TSSF: Last year, WVU’s shooting percentages left a little bit to be desired. Considering y’all returned quite a bit of your key pieces from last year, do you think the necessary improvement is there after the Bad Boy Mowers Classic?
SM: As I said earlier, consistency is the key. At times WVU showed improvement, but also had a few stretches where they regressed.
TSSF: Gonzaga is the favorite going into this game that will theoretically be played. How do you think it’ll shake out, and what is your score prediction?
SM: I won’t say there isn’t a chance WVU can win, we’ve certainly came up with big wins before, but it’s an uphill climb. The Zags have so many weapons and WVU has such small room for error. I think WVU keeps it close for a while, but entropy takes over in the second half. Zags 87, WVU 71.