The Feedback from New York City? A nickname for Joe Alexander? Bottles ofÂ BBQÂ sauce exploding on WVSports.com writers? Deja vu all over again?
Let’s stop there. I don’t mean to undervalue what’s going on right now with West Virginia’s basketball team. In fact, I want to individualize it. Thursday’s win was special, certainly the best of the season and the catapult into the NCAA Tournament, but comparisons to 2005 are really unfair.
Be honest: Are you that surprised? Did you not just hang with UConn 13 days ago? Didn’t Boston College beat WVU twice and by a combined 32 points in 2005. Weren’t fans booing WVU in the 20-point home loss to the Eagles that year? That rally was really unexpected. This? Not so much.
First and foremost, this team entered in a much better situation. In truth, the Mountaineers were in the NCAA Tournament after Wednesday’s win. The 2005 team needed to reach the semifinals. The 2005 team had a five-game losing streak at one point and finished 8-8 in the Big East. This team never lost more than two in a row, only had two losing streaks all season and finished 11-7 in a better conference.
At the same stage, this team is, quite simply, better. Why? Joe Alexander. We may be able to give the kid a nickname, too.
I’d be stunned if this didn’t hit the back pages in New York City.
The comparisons to Kevin Pittsnogle, though, do warrant mentioning. Pittsnogle generated a greater buzz in 2005 — so, too, did the entire team as the Mountaineers dominated the back pages thatÂ year — and there are a few simple reasons. He was moreÂ appealing. West VirginiaÂ kid, tattoos, unique last name andÂ a fascinating combination ofÂ range and accuracy that defied his size and position.
Alexander, on the other hand, is just killing people. He’s almost indefensible and he has a knack for creating — and making — his own shot that WVU fans haven’t see in a long, longÂ time. He may very well be playing better than anyone in the country. If everyone knew his background, he’d be off the charts now.
That said, Georgetown has to go small on him tomorrow, perhaps with an Austin Freeman, and encourage Alexander to post the defender up. That way the double-team arrives and Alexander has to pass out. WVU isn’t hitting from the perimeter, so it’s a good gamble. One wonders if JT3 will be inclined to let Alexander roll,Â take his chances on the slumping shooters and simply shut Da’Sean Butler down.
Onto the Feedack. As always, comments appear as posted.Â
Can you asterisk Joe Alexanderâ€™s first-team All-Big East honor? The guy has had a great season, but this awards inflation has to be capped or at least acknowledged.
1998 â€” Damian Owens become the first WVU player to make first-team and he earned it. One of FIVE selections â€” along with Rip Hamilton, Tim James, Pat Garrity and Felipe Lopez (of all people).
2001 â€” Calvin Bowman *really* earns it. Heâ€™s one of five, along with Preston Shumpert, Troy Murphy, Troy Bell and Novaâ€™s Michael Bradley.
The following year, the team grows to seven. 2002-03 is a reasonable six. 2003-04 itâ€™s seven. 2004-05 back to six.
The past three years, those teams have been jokes as the league bows to the whiny coaches who want everybody to get a blue ribbon and an ice cream cone.
2005-06 â€” Gansey and Pittsnogle joined by NINE OTHER PLAYERS â€” Eric Hicks, Rudy Gay, Steve Novak, Chris Quinn, Aaron Gray, Allan Ray, Gerry McNamara, Randy Foye and QUINCY DOUBY. Pick the best five there, or even six or seven. Gansey and Pittsnogle probably still make it.
2006-07 â€” Frank Young joins 10 OTHER GUYS â€” some of whom I donâ€™t even remember playing from a year ago â€” Colin Falls, Aaron Gray, Herbert Hill, Lamont Hamilton, Demetris Nichols, Curtis Sumpter, Russell Carter (!?!?!), Dominic James and Dr. Roy Hibbert.
This year, another 10 guys joining Alexander: Gransberry, Brian Laing, Sam Young, Kyle McAlarney, Luke Harangody, David Padgett, Hibbert, AJ Price, Jeff Adrien and Deonta Vaughn. Youâ€™re telling me that stellar list canâ€™t be pared down by 4 or 5 guys?
Bottom line: Marcus Goreeâ€™s second-team selection in 1999 on the worst WVU team EVER means more than Alexanderâ€™s inflated pick. Goree had to take second behind Hamilton, Tim James, Johnny Hemsley, Jamel Thomas and Ron Artest.
He was joined on the second by El-Amin, Murphy, Etan Thomas and Bootsy Thornton, plus integrity.Â Â
I loved this. It set off wild debates between me and people I know and trust. The size of the all-conference team now is both misleading and infuriating. It’s a delicate balance. I’m sure coaches, athletic directors and presidents had worries about all-league teams when the Big East expanded, so this must have been an agreed upon issue. That said, coaches do, in fact, have too much influence on simply getting their guys on there. I always say the max should be eight people. That’s basically a good college team: five starters and three reserves. Let’s begin with 2005-06: I say it’s Gay (Player of the Year), Hicks, Foye, Gansey, Pittsnogle, McNamara, Ray and Novak. Last year, it’s Jeff Green (Player of the Year), James, Hibbert, Nichols, Hill, Carter, Falls andÂ Hamilton … and I’m stretching near the end. This year, it’s Harangody (Player of the Year), Padgett, Price, Adrien, Young, Vaughn, Hibbert and Alexander … and again I’m strecthing.Â The point, I suppose, is that maybe my eight is too big and it should be six or seven. It need not be diluted.