Men’s Basketball: WVU vs. Marquette Preview - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Men’s Basketball: WVU vs. Marquette Preview

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MORGANTOWN -

What can we even expect from West Virginia at this point? At times, the team is showing plenty of upside and has shown the ability to play with anyone it goes up against.

At other times, getting a shot to go in can seem nearly impossible.

Just a week ago, the Mountaineers went into the Peterson Events Center, where they have struggled greatly over the years, and blew out their biggest rival. In the postgame interviews, it was obvious that this team had regained some of that confidence that had been lost during a rough seven-game stretch.

Then, on Wednesday night, they went to South Bend, another place that has been unkind to the program, and played a strong first half. The problem is, they still had a second half to play, and it couldn't have gone much worse for West Virginia, as Notre Dame outscored them 41-16.

Bob Huggins doesn't have much time to prepare his team for its next challenge, either. On Friday night, the Mountaineers (17-11, 7-8) will welcome #10 Marquette (23-5, 12-3) to the Coliseum for a game that will be huge for WVU's NCAA Tournament résumé.

The good news is that West Virginia won't be battling history when they host the Golden Eagles. While Marquette has won two in a row in this series, the Eagles have never won in Morgantown, going 0-for-4.

The bad news is that the Mountaineers have not been playing very well over the last month, and Marquette is one of the hottest teams in the country right now. Since a loss in early January to Syracuse, the Eagles have won 11 of 12 games. They've been climbing the polls during this stretch, finally reaching the top ten in the most recent rankings.

That means that getting a win will be a tough task for the struggling Mountaineers, but it also means that, if they were to earn it, they'd get a huge boost in their effort to get an NCAA Tournament bid.

Defensively, WVU will have to play better than what it did Wednesday against Notre Dame. A lot better. The Irish, who are just 13th in the conference in scoring, shot 61 percent from the field in that game. On Friday, West Virginia will be playing the highest-scoring team in the Big East.

Marquette has two of the top scorers in the league in Darius Johnson-Odom (18.7 points per game) and Jae Crowder (17.1). Johnson-Odom has scored at least 21 points in each of his last four games, and the Eagles have won by double digits in each of those contests. Crowder also leads the team in rebounding, and he's been hot lately, too, scoring 23 or more in his last three games.

Rebounding is one area of the game that WVU could have an advantage over Marquette. In the first half against Notre Dame, the Mountaineers were able to dominate the offensive glass and had the lead. They're one of the best rebounding teams in the Big East.

In fact, Kevin Jones is the league's leader in rebounding with 11.2 per game. He also leads the conference with 20.3 points per game. Coincidentally, Johnson-Odom is second in those rankings. Jones has been the model of consistency for a team that has been lacking in that area, but he'll need some help around him to help pull the upset.

Truck Bryant is second on the team with more than 16 points per game, and the team has a much better chance of winning when he's able to find his outside shot. In the team's 17 wins, Bryant is averaging 19. 8 points per game, but in the 11 losses, he gets just 10.5 points.

It's also a big help when Deniz Kilicli can find his shot inside, especially that deadly left hook. He's been finding it a lot more lately, but he only netted eight points against Notre Dame.

The team's freshmen have also got to start providing some consistent scoring. On Wednesday night, the five that played combined to shoot 20 percent from the field and contributed a combined 11 points. That number has to be higher to beat a top ten team like Marquette.

With each loss, West Virginia is seeing its tournament hopes slipping away, but with three games left, it is still well within reach. A win over a team like Marquette would be huge for the WVU's résumé. The Mountaineers will have to show a lot of improvement from Wednesday night to Friday night in order to beat the Eagles, though.

The game will tip off at 9 p.m. and will be nationally televised on ESPN.

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