Tipoff Time is Here

  • By Tony Caridi
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  • November 10, 2011 08:08 PM
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Tipoff time has arrived for the Mountaineer basketball team and as coach Bob Huggins prepares for his fifth season in Morgantown, here are five questions that need answering:

1. Will Deniz Kilicli play like an Istan-Bull?

Deniz’s orientation to the American college game is over. His days as apprentice to the likes of Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks allowed him to be a spot player. It’s imperative that the junior big man with the unique skill set becomes an every-game contributor. The Mountaineers could win games in the past if Deniz didn’t show, but now that’s no longer the case.

2. Will Truck Bryant’s transition to shooting guard work?

The senior from Brooklyn has driven West Virginia’s offense from the point since he arrived four years ago. Now, the big question: Can Truck move from the passing lane and be consistently productive? Players who make this switch often times get confused when asked to become more of a scorer. This is not a green light to take the first available shot. Bryant must display a judicious offensive approach. Forced shots are much worse than missed shots. Think about it.

3. Will Kevin Jones grow comfortable in his role as “The Guy”?

Every team has a Guy. He’s the guy that leads on and off the floor. He’s the guy who exudes confidence in the face of adversity. How he acts oftentimes determines how his teammates act. Da’Sean Butler was the quintessential guy. KJ struggled with it at times last year, but with a year of seasoning needs to be the one constant on Bob Huggins’ youngest team ever.

4. Can Gary Browne maintain his un-freshman-like productivity?

The rookie from Puerto Rico has impressed coaches since their first practice in July as they prepared for their trip to Italy. In last Friday’s game against Northern Kentucky, Browne had the best plus-minus mark of any Mountaineer. WVU was +10 when he was on the floor, meaning WVU outscored NKU by 10 points when he was out there. Freshman productivity is always mercurial, but I like this kid’s game. He’s got that toughness that Huggs loves and the Mountaineers must have to win games.

5. Do you basketball fans really understand the strength of this year’s schedule?

An independent review of WVU’s non-conference schedule ranks it as the most difficult in the nation among BCS schools. The Mountaineers will play eight games against teams that won 20 or more last season. Huggs acknowledged during his weekly talk show that this is his youngest team in his 30 years as a head coach. Opponent number one, Oral Roberts, returns five starters from a 19-win season. In Wednesday’s battle of future opponents, Akron won at Mississippi State. Next Tuesday’s foe, Kent State, is the preseason pick to win the Mid-American Conference. There are also games against Kansas State and nationally ranked Baylor. Oh yeah, and then the Mountaineers open Big East play where I’m sure they will be greeted with open arms by fans like never before.

Bob Huggins has done some wonderful coaching jobs since taking over in 2007. With two seniors on the roster and seven newcomers this will be his ultimate challenge. At the majority of schools they would mark this down as a rebuilding year, however, Huggins doesn’t use that word- nor will he allow his players that option.