A Little Know-Howe: Survive and Advance
This time of year, all that matters is winning. Style points mean nothing. There are no voters to impress. You either win or you don’t.
West Virginia proved Jim Valvano’s theory to be correct on the first full day of the 2017 NCAA tournament.
It wasn't pretty. Heck, for most of the game it wasn't even kind of pretty.
But, it was a win. Are there concerns heading into Saturday's game against Notre Dame? Yes, of course. We'll get to those shortly.
West Virginia scored 86 points against Bucknell, but at times the offense seemed stagnant.
Jevon Carter and Dax Miles combined to go just 3-13 from the floor. Not the kind of shooting night we are used to seeing from Jevon Carter this year.
Thank goodness for the always steady Nathan Adrian, 12 points (and 10 rebounds), and Lamonte West. They stepped in and provided the missing scoring from Carter.
West finished with 15 points on 6-7 shooting. I was impressed with the way he scored as well. He showed a post up move, a floater in the lane and hammered a dunk to go with his two made threes.
The Mountaineers were outstanding on the glass as well. West Virginia outrebounded Bucknell by 10 and had 17 offensive rebounds.
If you’ve watched this team over the last couple of seasons, you know how important rebounding is to its success.
Now comes the short turnaround with a game against five seed, Notre Dame today at 12:10pm.
In theory, the one day prep time for the West Virginia press should be a big advantage for the Mountaineers. Yes, Notre Dame has one of the best coaches in the game in Mike Brey.
But, can Brey prepare his team for not one, but two unique defensive styles in less than 48 hours? Not only will Notre Dame need to get ready for the press, but they will also need to have an answer for the 1-3-1 zone West Virginia will likely use at some point.
Notre Dame is not a mid-major, unaccustomed to the level of athlete West Virginia brings. The Irish expect to be good in March.
They are the only program in the country to have been to each of the last two Elite Eights.
They have an All-ACC player in forward, Bonzie Colson. Colson was a beast this year averaging 17.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. He was a finalist for the National Player of the Year.
But, he may be less than 100 percent. Heading into Notre Dame’s first round game versus Princeton, Colson was nursing a sore ankle. The Notre Dame staff said he was 80-90 percent, but he certainly seemed slowed against the Tigers. Colson still played 31 minutes, scoring 18 and grabbing seven rebounds.
However, the Mountaineers are not entirely healthy either. Jevon Carter looked gimpy after landing awkwardly in the first half against Bucknell. Nathan Adrian is fighting through shoulder discomfort after getting tangled with Jarrett Allen in the Big 12 tournament.
But, it’s March. You won’t find many players this time of year that are completely healthy.
West Virginia enters this one a slight favorite (two points). Given this is a match up of the four and five seeds, a close game would be expected. If it is, remember that Notre Dame is the best free throw shooting team in the country.
The keys for West Virginia remain the same as they have been all year.
1. Play with high energy and create havoc with the press leading to turnovers (and fatigue)
2. Make shots - who will be the second and third scorer for this team behind Carter? If they find those, I like West Virginia’s chances.
3. Out-rebound and out-shoot the Irish
Will the short turnaround benefit WVU? We say that quite a bit. Now it's time to see if it holds true.
We’ll find out just after noon today.
Survive and advance.
Editor's Note: Photos by Ben Queen of www.benqueenphotography.com.