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West Virginia Faces Slumping Providence

February 17, 2010
By JIM ELLIOTT

Perhaps it was little more than a slip of his mind, but Providence coach Keeno Davis may have picked a bad time to forget who his team was playing next when he was talking to reporters earlier this week about the strength of the Big East this season.

''I don't see there's any reason why the teams in the Big East can't have similar success in the postseason (as last season), not just because of the depth of the conference, but because of how good Villanova is, how good Syracuse is, how good Georgetown is,'' Davis said.

Three Big East teams are among the top 8 in the country. Georgetown isn't one of them. West Virginia is.

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John Flowers and the West Virginia Mountaineers are back in action tonight at 7 against Providence.

The nail-spitting Mountaineers, who have lost two straight, also happen to be paying a 7 o'clock visit to the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Rhode Island tonight.

West Virginia won last season's meeting 86-59, and has won five in a row in the series, as well as eight of the last nine.

The Friars (12-13 overall, 4-9 Big East) have lost each of their last five games and are in the third leg of a four-game stretch against Top-10 teams.

Still, it's unlikely the Mountaineers heard, nor cared, about Davis' oversight. He could have said something about their families and this game still would not be about bulletin board material.

After a home loss to No. 4 Villanova, and a nightmarish triple-overtime loss to No. 22 Pitt, West Virginia can only worry about West Virginia.

The free throws aren't falling at the rate they were, and the Mountaineers recently jumped into a bad habit of forgetting their strength, which is their length. After the Villanova loss, No. 8 West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said his team lost sight of that against the Wildcats' smaller guards and left their feet way too often.

Providence' second-leading scorer is 5-foot-10 Sheraud Curry (15.5 points and 3.4 assists per game), which might be something to keep an eye on. Forward Jamine Peterson (6-6) is fifth in the Big East in scoring, averaging 18.9 points per game (along with 9.9. rebounds). Freshman forward Bilal Dixon (6-9) averages 2.08 blocks and 8.6 points. Marshon Brooks (6-5, 14.1 ppg), and 6-4 guard Brian McKenzie (5.7 ppg) round out the starting lineup.

With three guys averaging more than 14 points, it's obvious Providence can score (second in the Big East at 81.8 points per game), but it also allows the opposition to do the same, as the Friars' No. 16 ranking in scoring defense league-wide indicates (79.5 per game).

Assuming the Mountaineers get a double bye in the Big East Tournament, then win that and reach the national title game, Butler has, at most, 15 games left in his Mountaineers career.

If he were to play all of those games and score right at his average - 17.8 - he'll add 267 more points to his total. That would have him walking away with 2,134 career points, 46 shy of Hundley and 175 short of West. And remember, those two guys did that in three years without a 3-point line.

 
 

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