December 2, 2009
Welcome to Jay-Mail! Jay Jacobs stopped by Wednesday afternoon to take some of your questions about West Virginia basketball.
In addition to covering WVU men’s and women’s basketball for the Mountaineer Sports Network, Jacobs also writes Basketball Beat for MSNsportsNET.com.
Tim (Los Angeles, CA): Jay, given the recent performances of De'Sean, do you think his draft stock can be dramatically improved by the end of the season?
Jay: Da’Sean’s stock went up with those pro scouts out there in California. He was the best player on the floor for three days. He definitely will be a pro. I think the key is what team he gets with at the professional level. Right now early in the season, I see him as a second round pick.
Jack Vaughan (Pittsburgh): Jay, Why would the basketball team play an exhibition game against Charleston after already playing in 5 regular season games? I think all this does is risk injury. I would have no problem playing them before the season begins.
Jay: Our schedule is built around TV games and Huggs wants to play as many television games as he can. In order to do that the schedule of games sometimes suffers. In the perfect world, we would have loved to have had a game this week and not have an exhibition but it didn’t work out that way and he didn’t want nine days off.
Dennis (Beckley):Jay do you think Jonnie West will be a part of coach Huggins regular rotation once big east play begins and is there any chance the 20 game suspension for Kilicli is reduced?
Jay: Jonnie played well in California. He did an adequate job on defense and when you say regular rotation, Jonnie right now is in a rotation of 10, which Huggs has used. He is a backup two-guard to Casey Mitchell. Casey struggled in the second and third games in California and thus Jonnie saw time. I believe Jonnie is the team’s best pure shooter. As for Deniz, I don’t see it being reduced.
Nathan Scott (Elkins): Jay. when do you think Devin Ebanks will get his starting role back?
Jay: He will start the exhibition game, in my opinion, and from there on out.
Dave Fulaytar (WVU Employee – HSC): My question relates to coaching strategy ... not specific to WVU, but b-ball across the nation (tho' I did detect a bit of this during our A&M win this weekend). It revolves around the old saying of "playing not to lose." Why is it that when the better team gets an 8-10-15 point lead by way of "playing their game" and outplaying their opponents, does that all go out the window when the clock winds down to 3-4-5 minutes left to play!? Teams tend to go away from what got them the lead in the first place in order to run time off the clock. So often, it seems like this strategy results in missed shots, turnovers, standing around, etc. I say why not continue doing what you do best and keep pounding away, playing your offense - in short, play to win (not to lose). I'm not picking on WVU - they played a stellar game/tourney, but when I see this "holding the ball" with a lead, late in games - it drives me crazy! What's your take on this issue? Thanks!
Jay: To answer your question David, I think you lose focus of team play and it turns into individualistic play. Individuals take over and you start to look for your points instead of team points. That’s my theory on that. Coaches counteract that by going to their bench.
Scott (Knoxville, TN): Jay, After Kevin Jones's great 76 Classic performance, will we see Huggs start Jones over Smith once Ebanks returns to the starting five or will WVU just have the best sixth man in the conference?
Jay: That will be a hard decision but it will be coach’s decision. Huggs likes talented players coming off the bench and I can only say, Scott, that it’s not who starts but rather how many minutes a guy plays. Right now, Kevin Jones is second on the team in minutes played behind Da’Sean Butler. Has Kevin earned the right to continue to start? The answer is certainly yes.
Bob (Raleigh N.C.): Jay, Thanks in advance. How do we lose this year?
Jay: We are beatable, Bob. How? At the defensive end by not rebounding and nor guarding on the perimeter. By letting 3-point shots go down against us. On the offensive end we can lose by turning the ball over and not shooting well from the foul line.
Ed Watson (Winfield): Has WV basketball EVER had a tougher man than Joe Mazzulla?
Jay: Ed, you have to go pretty far back. In my 35 years of doing this and knowing what Joe has gone through to get back on the floor, he has been outstanding. He is as tough as they come and Huggs knows it.
Daniel Harman (Hedgesville): Jay, Were we fouling as much as the refs called them in the 76 Classic or were they calling a lot of "touch" fouls? Seems like a high number of fouls were called in the tournament and some of the offensive fouls called on WVU in the championship game really looked like minimal contact on TV. Refs aside, do you see the team getting the foul situation cleaned up soon? Thanks.
Jay: We were fouling. We are a team that early in the season does commit fouls. But in Anaheim a lot of these fouls were not fouls that would be called in the Big East. I think it was valuable for West Virginia because in post-season play you are going to have games called like this.
John Benvenuto (Watchung, N.J.): Jay, is this Men’s Basketball Team as good as I think? I would be disappointed if they didn't get to the Final Four, but I think they can win it all. Am I crazy? Thanks
Jay: John, you’re not crazy but we’re talking about not getting injuries. It’s a marathon, not a sprint to the Final Four. With the addition of Deniz Kilicli coming back in February, that will make us stronger up front. My final comment is you have to have skill to get to the Final Four, but you also have to have a lot of luck in the pairings your seeding.
Tom Stamper (Cabin Creek): Hi Jay; I really enjoy the relationship that you and Huggs have, it's refreshing. I saw the "Turk" was with the team in Charleston, is he allowed to travel with the team? Thanks Tom Stamper, Cabin Creek.
Jay: No, cannot travel with the team but he can play in the exhibition game against Charleston this Saturday and he will play.
Clifton (Fairfax, Va.): At what point in the season does Huggins usually stop yanking players after a bad play to teach (and yell), and start allowing them to play through their mistakes. I know it is all a part of his master plan to win late in the season, but it's frustrating to watch, and I know it must be frustrating to play through.
Jay: Huggs is Huggs and the players understand that mistakes need to be corrected and thus, substitutions are made. This team has the depth where you can make those substitutions when a mistake is made. At times, Huggs will let certain players play through their mistakes. But as far Huggs no longer yelling, that will probably be at the end of the year at the banquet.
Greg Workman (Parkersburg , WV): Is seems like Joe Mazzulla's shoulder is still bothering him. Should there be a point where after two years that someone suggest the poor kid give up.
Jay: His shoulder is still bothering him, but you have to know Joe to understand that he will play no matter how tough it is out there for him. Our players respect him and love him for it.
Rick (Morgantown): I am not a coach by any stretch of the means, but it seemed like we had a problem containing the dribble drive during the 76 classic, most especially with Texas A&M and some also with Portland. Do you think it is a real weakness of our defense and if so, do you see this being a large problem for us throughout the rest of the season and post-season?
Jay: In the man-to-man defense the dribble drive is a concern. Mazzulla is the best at on-ball defense and Truck is improving. We’ve shown very little zone defense and that will be part of the defensive scheme as the season moves on.
Jonathan (St. Albans): What happened to all this size that we kept hearing about in the off-season? I was under the impression that some of the guys had bulked up, and that we would not be pushed around in the paint anymore. From what I have seen so far, we are the same team from last year. No one really looks any bigger or more dominant in the paint. So, what's the deal?
Jay: We are longer and stronger. If you’re 6-7 you’re still 6-7, but we are a lot stronger than we were last year and I think you will see that as the season goes on. Right now, Danny Jennings has struggled and is not getting the playing time. If you are looking for dominance in the paint wait for the Turk.
Paul E. Jarrett (Naples, Fla.): Is it just the fan in me, or does this year's men's team have the deepest roster WVU has ever had, if not the deepest of any team in the nation? It seems like they can go 12 deep.
Jay: Paul I would say that right now his rotation is 10 deep. I do not anticipate it expanding. I anticipate it shortening as the season goes on. Your ninth and 10th men become spot players off the bench. Thoroughman is an example of that.
Chris (Clarksburg): Obviously the WVU women's basketball team is very good. They compete hard and play very well. Yet they were clearly outmatched by Ohio State. Was that an anomaly or a reflection of a horrible lack of parity in women's basketball? How will they stack up against the better teams in the Big East?
Jay: Good question, Chris. First off, Ohio State is one of the three-best teams in the country. West Virginia was overmatched in that game but experiences were gained. There is parity in women’s basketball. West Virginia’s front line is young and the backcourt is young but has some experience. As of right now, West Virginia will be a bubble team for the NCAA and is a year away from being very, very good. I think the Mountaineers will hold their own in the Big East this year.
Ben (Morgantown, WV): Hey Jay, Is there any chance in your mind that Ebanks stays another year in Morgantown?
Jay: At this time Devin is a pro prospect and we’ll see how the year goes. That decision will be made after the season.
Tim Robinson (York, Pa.): After 5 games, what are the Mountaineers strengths and weaknesses?
Jay: Tim, after five games Huggs is happy in no areas but from my standpoint the strengths of this team have been its improvement in rebounding and its ability to score in different areas featuring Jones, Butler and Ebanks. The weaknesses have been on the defensive side of the ball. Teams are shooting right around 50 percent from the field against us and that’s not setting well with Huggs. He thought his defense would be stronger at this point in the season.
Danny (Morgantown): How good is this years girls team?
Jay: They are much improved. Asya Bussie and Korinne Campbell are very talented players. Sarah Miles has come back from the hairline fracture of her right wrist and played better in Reno. A 5-1 record is solid and they are home for the next seven games before they start Big East play. This team, in my opinion, will be 12-1 heading into Big East play and they are a much deeper team this season.
Ryan Meyer (Norristown, Pa.): Do u think Dalton Pepper will get to play a lot with West Virginia and how many minutes will he get and can he help this team?
Jay: Dalton is a diamond in the rough. He has been slow in picking up the offense but he’s working hard and the light bulb will come on. When it does he will be quite a talent.
Greg (Rochester, N.Y.): Jay - With so many guys getting playing time in the 76 Classic, who impressed you the most off the bench? And how important do you think it is that the Mountaineers were able to sign a 7 ft. recruit like David Nyarsuk?
Jay: The player that impressed me the most coming off the bench in the 76 Classic was Mazzulla. He had one bad game out of three – he did not play well against Texas A&M. he spells Truck and it’s not about how many points you get but rather his role in getting the ball to scorers. He knows the offense as well as anybody on the team and he is also an excellent defender. He can use his left hand and his right hand off the dribble, he’s worked at it hard, but right now it’s hard for him to elevate with his left-hand shot above his shoulder. As for the 7-footer, he’s 7-footer. Those are hard to turn down. He will need work on the offensive end but he’s a shot blocker. With Jennings and the Turk you can be bring him along slowly and even consider redshirting him.
Rick (Marietta, Ohio): Jay, Does Bob Huggins finally prove to all faithful Mountaineers that great recruits like Devin Ebanks will come to WVU? If someone can build a national program in Storrs, Conn. can't it be done in Morgantown, WV?
Jay: Absolutely, Rick. Bob Huggins is on the road at every possible time. He brings a combination that a lot of college coaches don’t have and that’s the combination of being a great coach on the floor and also a person who can go into a home and work a recruit as good as anybody. You don’t have 16 people in the pros by not being able to recruit. The bottom line is his goal is taking this team to the Final Four.
TJ (Cleveland): I'm worried about the strength of the inside game for the men. A lot of foul trouble. Will this diminish when we get into the BE schedule since it's knows as a physical league?
Jay: I don’t think it will be a problem, TJ. What you saw were a lot of fouls in Anaheim from Conference USA and Big 12 officials.
Alec Bown (Philadelphia, Pa.): How about an update on some Mountaineers of the past. What’s up with Gansy, Beilein, Nichols, Frank Young, Pittsnogle, Herber, J.D. Collins. I am not sure this is what you were looking for.....but I am sure that we are all curious!!
Jay: Alec, I can answer some of these. Gansey is playing overseas. Patrick is with his dad at Michigan. After an injury last year, Nichols is back playing overseas in Hungary. Pittsnogle went out to Albuquerque to the NBA Developmental League and hurt his back. I don’t know if he is still in the league or not. Herber is back in Germany and has been playing professionally but hurt his ACL last year and I don’t know his status for this year. J.D. Collins is in Houston working out younger players. J.D. has a younger brother who is a college prospect. And I’m not sure about Frank. That’s the best I can do, Alec.
Andy-Bob (Hurricane, WV): Jay, On opposing free throws, Ebanks lines up beside the shooter and then moves to the outside and uses his teammate's box outs as a buffer for him to get the rebound. Is this by Huggins' design or just something Ebanks does?
Jay: This is something where Devin takes advantage of his long wingspan. This is something they have worked on in practice and it will pay off as the season goes on. That is a perceptive on your part to pick that up.
David Yost (Mooresville, N.C.): In your years of WVU basketball is their any comparison to this years team?
Jay: I think it’s too early to start doing that, David. But, this is the deepest team I have seen at West Virginia in a long, long time.
Matty (Morgantown): What kind of factor do you think Noah Cotrill will be next year if we still have Truck, Mazzula, Mitchell in the line up?
Jay: Noah will be a factor. He will be a freshman next year and we know that it takes time for freshmen. The advantage that Noah has is Truck and Mazzulla being here. That is invaluable for him.
Doug Potter (Morgantown, WV student): Jay, can we make a case in the early season that the January 1st match up with Purdue could be a sleeper pick for the game of the year?
Jay: It’s a highly interesting game featuring possibly two Top 10 teams. You have to remember that we are playing within that span two league games – one against Seton Hall and one against Marquette. As marquee as the Purdue game might be, you have to watch out when you step outside the conference. Your most important games are your conference games.
Terry (email@example.com): I'm a WVU die-hard from Hundley/West era. I was elated when Huggins came back. I like his intensity. But it bothers me when I see him on camera chewing out his players with such anger on his face. I wonder how the players feel about this. Is their cause for concern ? Comment.
Jay: Huggs is no different than any other coach. You can go back to my era and we were all scared to death of Coach Schaus, who is recognized as the greatest coach in West Virginia University history. Fred used a similar approach, as did Gale Catlett, who had tremendous success here.
Shannon (Poca, WV) Jay, In your opinion, who gives us the more match up problems: Syracuse with their size and the 2-3 zone defense, or Villanova and their 3 guard look.
Jay: Good question, Shannon. We play both of these teams late in the season. Looking at these two teams now, with the Syracuse 2-3 zone you must make shots against it and we have the shooters to do this. You attack the middle to flatten that zone. Jim Boeheim does not jump into secondary defenses so what you see is what you get from him. We know that the three-guard look from Villanova will be a problem. We have to handle their pressure and we will have to size down with our talent. We can play our bigs against Syracuse but you have to go smaller against Villanova. We will see if we can accomplish those two things later in the year.
BRAD SIBOLD (UNION): Jay, In your opinion who is our "go to guy" on this team? In other words if Huggs needs a basket who does he call a play for Ebanks? Butler? I think the lack of a "go to guy" last year hurt as at times because it seemed there was no 1 guy we could rely on when we needed points.
Jay: The go-to guy this year is Da’Sean Butler.
Thanks for sending in your questions. I really enjoyed them. I will be back to answer some more questions after West Virginia's game against Ole Miss on Dec. 23. We'll see you then.