‘If you guys have seen it, you know he’s seen it’

February 8, 2016 by Mike Casazza

Dax Miles was more like himself Saturday than he has been for the entire Big 12 season, and that was good for West Virginia, which might find itself in the top 10 again when the polls come out today. He found 20 points with eight shots and didn’t do any of the things that had lately earned him extended sitting time.

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No. 14 WVU 80, No. 15 Baylor 69

February 7, 2016 by Mike Casazza

By now you know, WVU is all alone in first place in the Big 12 this morning. No. 1 Oklahoma lost on the road to Kansas State — root canal, man — and the Mountaineers won at home against Baylor. A week ago, this seemed pretty far away, and though it doesn’t mean much today, understand that had the Bears won then the conversation would have been much different. There would have been a five-way tie for first place, which seems fitting given the depth and strength of the league.

Instead WVU sits atop that deep and strong league.

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WVU v. Baylor: ¡Que suave!

February 6, 2016 by Mike Casazza

2016-02-06 18.26.47

You are looking live at the propaganda planted in the student section for tonight’s game. I know Fake Bob Huggins is excited, but I have to think this is one game the student section has been anticipating. There’s something bout Baylor that does not sit well with the natives, and Rico Gathers has that effect on opposing fans.

See, when you’re so big, so good at rebounding, so hard to move and so demonstrative, you’re going to get some boos when you’re on the road. It’s like that with Devin Williams, too, which makes tonight’s game so interesting.

Gathers and Williams walked into a china shop last season, and Baylor won, quite handily, it turned out, but those two had some fun. Williams had 20 points and 15 rebounds and Gathers finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds.

They’d meet again in Baylor, and Rico rolled again as Williams found foul trouble, before Williams had a better showing in the Big 12 Tournament. But in the three games, Gathers was one rebound shy of three double-doubles and averaged 16.3 points and 11.7 rebounds on a combined 13-for-20 shooting — lots of free throws in there.

As you might expect when those two go nose-to-nose, the competition left a mark.

“I’m going to give credit where credit’s due – that’s what you’re supposed to do,” Williams said. “He’s been the top rebounder in the league the last two years and done a good job rebounding the ball. My years, from my freshman and sophomore years to now, it’s been like I’m trying to keep up with Rico. Now it’s like I want to show I’m the best rebounder in the country.”

Gathers leads the Big 12 with 9.8 rebounds per game. A year ago, he led the conference in rebounds per game (11.6), offensive rebounds per game (4.8), defensive rebounds per game (6.8) and double-doubles (17).

But Williams was on Gathers’ level last season, averaging 11.6 points and 8.2 rebounds and finishing second to Gathers with nine double-doubles. Against Baylor, he averaged 11.3 points and 9 rebounds — foul trouble at Baylor limited him to four points and five rebounds — and made 17 of 32 shots.

The last time they met in the Coliseum, Williams had 20 points and 15 rebounds and Gathers finished with 17 points and 17 rebounds.

“He’s a hell of a talent,” Gathers said. “I can’t wait to get out there and go against him. We compete. We’re two physical specimens out there on the court and we could probably be playing some football, but we go out there and give it our all on both ends of the floor.”

Tonight’s their sixth matchup, and Gathers holds a 4-1 lead. The Bears have won four straight in the series, each by 10 or more points, and are the only Big 12 team that hasn’t lost in the Coliseum.

Let’s continue the theme and decide this one in the post.

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Friday Feedback

February 5, 2016 by Mike Casazza

Welcome to the Fri … I don’t remember how the rest of this goes. And for that, I’m sorry.

I checked: First edition since November 13. That’s crazy, but that’s a product of the schedule and the holidays and the bowl game. I think today is the day we begin to settle back into our fun and familiar pattern. Or it could be the last one. Ever. One never knows.

Onto the Feedback. As always, comments appear as posted. In other words, make sure you get what you want.

Mack said:

“his weight is either 305 or 320 pounds or somewhere between or beyond”

This was my favorite. Basically saying, “He weighs something.”

Mine, too. Recruiting. The best part? I was officially right and wrong. On the WVUSports.com list of signees, he’s listed at 330. On his individual signee page, he’s 20 pounds lighter

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How WVU cleaned up the mess

February 4, 2016 by Mike Casazza

Bob Huggins threw some criticism at his players Tuesday morning that stemmed from Saturday’s loss, and then West Virginia, a team highly ranked by all measurements and highly regarded by its foes, beat Iowa State at Hilton Coliseum.

There are fewer and fewer ways to say this isn’t a good basketball team, but the Mountaineers will keep trying to find them and use them. There are nine regular-season games left, but the hardest thing for Huggins to do the rest of the way is make sure his team remains convinced it isn’t very good.

But sooner or later the many mantras about disrespect or no respect, about being underrated and overlooked, have to go away. The Mountaineers will understand and maybe even admit that they’re all right.

“I don’t get caught up in it too much, but I’ve got family members who care and who watch,” forward Devin Williams said. “We won this game, but I can tell you ESPN will still be showing freaking Texas and Iowa State more than showing what we’ve done.”

ESPN, mind you, has touted Huggins as an overdue Hall of Famer this season. It led SportsCenter the morning of the game at then-No. 2 Oklahoma with a preview of the matchup and a gigantic “Press Virginia” graphic in the background. The Mountaineers probably didn’t see any of that, but even if they did, it doesn’t matter.

They see what they want to see, and that’s a strength.

“We haven’t had any respect since the season started,” Williams said, rebooting the bad mood WVU was in when it was left out of the preseason polls despite 25 wins and a Sweet 16 appearance last season and an abundance of players due back this season.

“Regardless of all the numbers out there, regardless of what we’ve done, we still don’t have any respect. So we’ve just got to stay together and be who we are.”

Meet the 2016 class

February 4, 2016 by Mike Casazza

Dana Holgorsen sounded chipper about a “successful day” that wasn’t too eventful. “For the first time since I have been, there wasn’t any surprises. Usually, there are a handful of surprises.”

He cares not for Minnesota, though.

Assistant coaches were pleased, as well, given the immediate impact available on offense and defense. Tony Gibson doesn’t see as many holes today as he did on Tuesday.

Let’s do this again in 364 days, yes?

No. 14 WVU 81, No. 13 Iowa State 76

February 3, 2016 by Mike Casazza

I don’t know the reason for this, and maybe it’s not worth the time needed to solve or discuss it. Or maybe you have an answer. Whatever, it’s secondary to my eventual point, which I’ll get to. But for some reason, for whatever reason, coaching decisions, and even coaching in general, isn’t a topic of great debate and attention in college basketball. Certainly not as much as it is in football.

Again, there’s probably a good explanation, but that’s not why I’m here. And maybe I have a blind spot. I cover one school. I don’t and can’t pay attention to (many) others. And maybe it’s because Bob Huggins has the wins and the resume and is a few steps from reproach, whereas Dana Holgorsen does not yet have quite as many triumphs or lines on his resume and has been very reproachable.

But a basketball game is so fast and often performed without constant contributions from the coaches. A football team has, what, 12 possessions in a game, and coordinators want to call plays for every snap and sub as frequently as possible.

Take a guess how many possessions WVU had last night.

The answer is important. How often did Huggins call a play or make a substitution? How many times did the Mountaineers gain a possession with a steal or a loose ball and simply go at the rim? How many times did Huggins wave his finger and tell his players to run motion offense and basically do something they do in practice and screen and cut based on knowing what teammates will do?

Huggins and I have talked about this before. He gets five timeouts a game, but football coordinators get a timeout between every play — he’s embellishing, but you get the point. Basketball coaches don’t have the same access to affecting the game.

So the pace and the flow of a basketball game often overshadows a coach’s impact, and it’s the things that happen after timeouts or in the final seconds of a half or a game that stand out the most. Huggins didn’t draw up a game-winner and didn’t put his hands on anything that looked ingenious and by design at the end of either half. There wasn’t something unmistakable from the 81-76 win, but I feel confident saying this: Bob Huggins had a heck of a game Tuesday night.

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Signing day underway

February 3, 2016 by Mike Casazza

I’m on my way through the ice again, this time from Ames to Des Moines, and I won’t be at today’s signing day press conference at 3 p.m. Fortunately, we found a suitable replacement for you to follow, and the Gazette-Mail as well as the football department have programing to get you through the day.

Big day already: Junior college cornerback Elijah Battle was the first player to sign, and he’d previously de-committed. He was followed later by Kyzir White and Brendan Ferns. Still waiting on delightfully blunt Chase Behrndt, the first Show Me State player to ever sign with the Mountaineers.

“I come from a rich, spoiled-brat area, suburban St. Louis, and the typical thing is everyone graduates from high school and goes to [the University of] Missouri,” he said. “That’s a typical thing. I’ve never been one who rolls with the crowd. I usually do my own thing. Honestly, I wanted to spread my wings and go as far away as I possibly could.”

So there was Behrndt, nailing rep after rep and impressing the WVU coaches. He won an MVP honor and was offered a scholarship he accepted four weeks later.

His first interaction with the Mountaineers was followed by a surprise.

“When I committed, I had a couple reporters call me, and one said he did some research and I’m the first player to come to play football from Missouri,” Behrndt said of his factual distinction in the program’s history.

“I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a big role for me. If I do well, maybe they’ll think about recruiting some more out there. And if I’m terrible, they’ll probably leave it alone.’ ”

WVU v. Iowa State: Pressed for change

February 2, 2016 by Mike Casazza

You are looking live at a wild Pitbull, which I’m told is that which Iowa State must be prepared for tonight.

“If people want to know what it’s like,” ISU senior Georges Niang said, “have you ever been chased by a couple wild pit bulls?

“That’s what their press really feels like.”

This is a severe change from Big 12 media day when Niang told me the Mountaineers come at opponents like bees, but it’s here and it’s what the Cyclones must counter.

Or do they?

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Stop me if you’ve heard this

February 2, 2016 by Mike Casazza

weather

Point 1: West Virginia — now ranked No. 14 by the media and No. 12 by the coaches — is playing a basketball game today. And it’s snowing. I don’t think the heavy stuff is going to come down for quite a while. That said, there are no plans to postpone the game, which would be an option because neither WVU nor No. 13/No. 14 Iowa State plays again until Saturday.

Additionally, I want to keep my eyes and ears on two things. First is the crowd. I expect the Hilton Coliseum to be packed. It’s all they know. And we like Hilton.

(Man, he was shaken that game. Nothing has gone right for WVU here.)

The second is how Bob Huggins reveres the crowd. If it’s snowy and a mid-week game and the place is packed, that’s going in his file.

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