A little over 24 hours until the Bearcats tip against West Virginia. Time for a little preview with Country Roads from The Smoking Musket in which we discuss Kevin Jones asscension young gun Jabarie Hinds and much more. Starting now.
1) What exactly has gotten into Kevin Jones? His production this year is unexpected, at least from me.
KJ has always been a really good player, but I don't think anyone, even the most optimistic WVU fan, saw this level of production coming. In short, he has improved at what he always did well and he has been able to expand his game while still playing within himself. He's always been a really good rebounder and chipped in points on putbacks and set shots from the baseline, but he has expanded his game this year. He's shooting more threes and has added some nice post moves to his arsenal, which helps. But other than that, I think his improvement can be attributed to the fact that he has worked his tail off to become a better player - he's bigger and stronger, he's tenacious on the glass, and he really understands what it takes to be a great post presence in terms of getting himself in position to make good things happen.
2) Jabarie Hinds has been a pleasant surprise from my perspective. Were Mountaineer fans expecting this kind of impact from the young man.
Honestly, I think so. He was a pretty highly regarded recruit (and actually scared Ryan Boatright, a former WVU commit, into switching to UConn), and we needed someone to step in and handle the point so Truck Bryant could slide down to the 2 guard. Obviously you never know what you're going to get out of a freshman, and Hinds has definitely played like a freshman at times, but there are times when you just have to smile and shake your head at the things he can do. WVU has lacked the ability to create off the dribble in recent years, and between Hinds and backup Gary Browne, there is at least the threat of that now.
3) What is the strength of the Neers from a defensive perspective
In terms of our defensive strength, you all probably know all too well that the staple of a Bob Huggins coached team is effort on defense and on the boards. I don't think we are any more talented than the teams we face. Sure, we have some length and some girth, and our guards are decently quick, but most WVU players aren't going to wow anyone with their physical abilities. Simply put, they just outwork people. They care about playing defense, and when things are going well, they understand their roles and therefore function really well as a unit on that end. I see many of the same traits from Cincinnati, and that really scares me.
4) Give me an unsung hero that will need to play a biggish role in a potential mountaineer win
I'm going to go with two guys who need to play well - Kevin Noreen and Dominic Rutledge. With the status of Deniz Kilicli uncertain (he sat out the Marshall game with a bum ankle), those guys need to step up and give WVU an inside presence if we want to have a chance, or else Yancy Gates is going to have a career day down low. If our guys can just slow him down or neutralize him to an extent, it will give Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant a chance to do their thing offensively to keep us in the game.
Even though the game is in Morgantown, I don't feel all that great about it. Cincinnati is on fire right now, and is playing with a lot of confidence. The Mountaineers won't have their typical edge in the effort/defense/rebounding department, and against a team with as much talent as UC, that's not a good sign. Combine that with Kilicli's questionable status and can easily see the Bearcats coming out of the Coliseum with a victory. Plus I need to reverse your reverse jinx. Let's call it 65-59, UC.