SCOUTING THE RED FOXES
Marist, which has one of the cooler logos in the NCAA, has had a tough start out of the game. Dropping an overtime decision to Lehigh, then a pair of games last week to UMass-Lowell and Army, they head to Disney World without much momentum. The Red Foxes are struggling to shoot the ball well, hitting just 44.5% from the field as a team, and 30.1% from 3-point range.
Almost all of Marist’s scoring comes from five players, four of whom are in the starting lineup. Guard Brian Parker (6-3, 215 lbs.) uses his strength to tally 19.7 points per game. He drives the ball and works inside effectively, getting to the line more than anyone else on the squad, and is also second on the team in rebounding. Swingman David Knudsen (6-5, 205 lbs.) serves as an outside complement, making a team best 46.2% of his threes on the way to 12.7 points per outing, while forwards Isaiah Lamb (6-4, 205 lbs.) and Ryan Funk (6-6, 190 lbs.) add 10.3 and 12.3 points per game respectively. Lamb is the only appreciable bench contributor, doing his damage in just 20 minutes per game.
Alexsandar Dozic and Tobias Sjoberg, who hail from Montenegro and Sweden, respectively, provide Marist with height and additional rebounding. Dozic (6-9, 210 lbs.) adds 8.3 points to his 7.3 rebounds per game, while Sjoberg (6-9, 25o lbs.) grabs five per outing, but isn’t much of an offensive threat with just four buckets on the season.
In addition to its shooting struggles, Marist has been outrebounded by an average of five per game, and has suffered 13 more turnovers than its three foes to date. It has relied on the three, launching 73 of its 173 shots from deep, but that’s a tactic that might need to be rethought if it can’t improve its success rate.
This one isn’t going to help the old RPI. Still, there are benefits to be had as WVU plays in a tournament atmosphere, at least in terms of game frequency and scheduling, this weekend.
|WVU (3-1) vs. MU (0-3)||Thu Nov 23||8:30 PM EST|
|HP Field House||Lake Buena Vista, FL||Series: WVU 1-0|
|RPI: WVU – 44 MU – 309||TV: ESPNNews||Sirius/XM: 81 / 81|
As head coach Bob Huggins pointed out following the Long Beach State game, one of the benefits of Thanksgiving tournaments is the quick turnaround between games. As such, it’s a bit of preparation for postseason championships, and even though that’s a long way away, it’s experience that many of the Mountaineers don’t have, at least as major on-court participants. Players like Lamont West and Beetle Bolden have been around for a while, but they haven’t had to worry about playing more than short stretches in any game. Putting in three games in four days with a lot of minutes is a new experience, and going through it now will help WVU when it faces the same situation, hopefully, in the Big 12 tournament.
On the court, this is a game West Virginia should handle easily. Again, though, there’s much to watch and work on. The Mountaineers’ transition defense out of its press has been shaky, as teams have pushed the ball upcourt. Texas A&M took it directly to the hoop and scored easily, while Long Beach State fired the ball up early before WVU had a chance to recover. That’s part of the 49ers DNA, but West Virginia was still not good enough in slowing the ball and getting out on perimeter shooters that were quick to pull the trigger. If Marist is able to defeat the press, look for it to copy those tactics, while the Mountaineers work on recovering and contesting those shots.
Look for WVU to push the tempo as usual and get into the Red Fox bench, which is not at all deep. The Mountaineers have a personnel advantage to begin with, but from players six through nine it becomes even more marked.
Another item to watch is the performance of players who had excellent preceding games. No one expects Sagaba Konate to score 20 points each time out, or for Chase Harler to make four 3-pointers in a half, but they, and others, do need to put together consistent showings over multiple games. Shots aren’t going to be falling every night, but a rollercoaster in performances is to be avoided if WVU is to be competitive over the course of the season.
WVU and Marist are both competing in this event for the third time. The Red Foxes finished third in 2006, and also defeated Vanderbilt in 2012. WVU was in the event (also called the Old Spice Classic) in the same years, losing to Arkansas in 2006 and defeating Marist in the opener in 2012.
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The Mountaineers will be looking to move above the .500 mark in the Sunshine State. WVU holds a 16-16 all-time record in games played in Florida.
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Marist is coached by Mike Maker, who was an assistant at WVU for two seasons (2005-07) under John Beilein. In the second of those two seasons, WVU won the NIT. He’s in his third season at Marist following six years as the head man at Williams College, where he took three teams to the Division III Final Four, including two trips to the national championship game. His time at Marist has been more difficult, as he is just 22-75 overall as he gets his fourth year underway.