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

Men’s Basketball: WVU vs. Connecticut Preview


West Virginia and Connecticut each appeared to be in good position in terms of the NCAA Tournament in the middle of January.

The Huskies had taken their record to 14-3 and had seen some time in the top ten of both rankings. The Mountaineers were 15-5 and had a win over a top ten team in Georgetown.

Since then, things haven't gone quite as well for these two teams. Connecticut is nowhere near the top 25, is now just 20-12 overall, and finished the regular season with an 8-10 record in Big East play. That meant that, for the second consecutive season, the Huskies would be the ninth seed in the Big East Tournament and wouldn't have the benefit of a first-round bye.

West Virginia had its own struggles, going through a stretch in which they lost seven of nine games. The Mountaineers did win their last two regular season games, including a road game against fellow bubble team South Florida. Despite the slump, they found themselves in eighth place, and did get a bye in the first round.

On Tuesday afternoon, they awaited the result of the Connecticut/DePaul first round game. UConn took care of business against the Blue Demons, and now the two teams that stumbled to the regular season finish line will meet Wednesday afternoon to try to advance to the Big East Quarterfinals.

These two teams did meet in January, when Connecticut was #16 in the polls and West Virginia was coming off the big win over Georgetown. That game was played in Storrs, and the Huskies earned a close win over the Mountaineers.

Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut's leading scorer with 17.6 points per game, led all players with 25 points in that game. Andre Drummond, who averages 10.2 points, put up 20 to go along with 11 rebounds.

WVU will also have to watch for Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. They each average double digits in points, and are the team's top two assist men. Boatright had originally committed to West Virginia before having a change of heart and heading to Connecticut to play for Jim Calhoun.

The Mountaineers are led by one of the conference's best players in Kevin Jones. Jones finished the season as the league's leader in points (20.0) and rebounds (11.2). He managed to score at least 12 points in every game this season, and put up 22 on the Huskies the first time these two played.

The team's other senior, Truck Bryant, is second on the team in scoring with 17.1 per game. He's struggled with consistency throughout the year, but he's been hot lately, getting at least 16 points in his last three games. In the January matchup, though, he was held to just two of 13 from the field. When Bryant has trouble scoring, the Mountaineers have trouble winning.

Bob Huggins has also had to rely on a few freshmen this year, too. Jabarie Hinds and Keaton Miles normally earn starts, though Gary Browne and Aaron Brown get significant playing time, as well.

Inside, Deniz Kilicli is the go-to man for the Mountaineers, but when he's struggling, Dominique Rutledge has become a solid option. Kilicli averages 10.9 per game, and can be a major offensive threat when he's hitting his hook shot, but he's gone cold lately. That's opened the door for Rutledge, who has taken advantage with some solid games as of late.

The winner of Wednesday's game will move on to the quarterfinals to face top-seeded Syracuse. Last season when Connecticut had to run a five-game gauntlet, they did come away with the Big East Championship.

The game will tip at noon and will be broadcast by ESPN.

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