Let’s see, it’s been hard to be as focused on this game as usual with the coinciding of NLI Day. Takes some of the edge off when there are the other distractions.
Distractions? You mean like the WVU students repeatedly getting slammed lately for their behavior at the games?
Jonathan Kimble, a sports management major at WVU who attends games in the student section, said he and his fellow Maniacs will tone it down a bit later but Pitt is an exception.
“Pitt is our rival so we’ll probably be using a lot of colorful words against them,” Kimble said.
The issues at West Virginia started Jan. 16 against Syracuse when fans threw items onto the court. One Syracuse blogger urged fans for the upcoming Georgetown game to refrain from littering the court: “Let’s stay classy. We’re not West Virginia fans, right?”
Gray said he’s planning to send another letter to students this week. The game isn’t on national TV, but Gray is suggesting fans depart from a certain three-word phrase they use every time the Panthers come to town.
“We would encourage them to be more creative and work on not doing those things that really embarrass and disappoint not only us, but the coaches, the players and other students and fans,” Gray said.
Can’t say I’m shocked. I mean it is WVU. Creativity beyond crudely describing the way they interact with their sisters and farm animals is asking a bit much.
On the court, a more interesting subplot is the debut of a Turkish forward who may be a big addition.
His name is Deniz Kilicli (pronounced “Kah-LITCH-luh”), and there’s certainly a chance that his impact on West Virginia’s season will be limited. It would be unfair to him to expect too much. He’s a Turkish freshman who’s only been in the U.S. for a little more than two years, was forced by the NCAA to sit out for the Mountaineers’ first 20 regular-season games, and has only seen college action in two exhibitions. He’s not yet in peak game condition.
But Kilicli is also a rugged, 6-foot-9, 260-pound power forward who could be an NBA draft prospect in a few seasons, and West Virginia coach Bob Huggins already calls him “our best low-post scorer.” So can you blame us for being intrigued, when no other top-10 team is adding a new player like this in February? The Mountaineers have gone 17-3 (and 6-2 in the Big East) without Kilicli, but, as his prep school coach from Mountain State Academy, Rob Fulford, says: “One thing they’re kind of missing is an a–hole. And he can play like an a–hole.”
Technically, WVU has the a–hole. But I guess, he was talking about players, not the coach.
I’m a little more skeptical of his impact. At least tonight. He may have been playing with the team in practice but a game is far different. Plus, haven’t we heard all this before about another big man who when he became eligible was going to be tremendous almost immediately? Anybody? Anybody?
Ator Majok? UConn? How’s that working out?
Make no mistake, WVU is really good this year. Yes, they have played up-and-down within games. Nearly blowing several and having to stage furious comebacks to salvage a few others. That said, they still won those games.
Jermaine Dixon should be back tonight.
“It was good to see him out there, and I anticipate him playing tomorrow,” coach Dixon said of his senior guard. “We will have to see how he feels. He was able to practice, and that’s a good sign. He’s ready to go, I would think, tomorrow. He seemed to have no problems.”
The players are looking forward to it.
“We enjoy the experience,” McGhee said. “It’s a hostile environment. It’s pretty difficult to play there. The fans get loud. We play harder when the fans come at you. It gets you pumped up and your adrenaline going. It’s something good for us.”
Gary McGhee gets some more love, and the suggestion that Pitt needs to go to him more. I won’t disagree. I will say, that the one area McGhee still needs to work on for that to happen, is making himself a better target for the pass inside. He still struggles to establish position and get the ball.
Coach Dixon is 3-3 down at the Concrete Toadstool. To put that in perspective, he has more wins there than any other Pitt coach.