Welcome to “Second Guess” Tuesday.
These opinions will keep everyone warm.
Does anybody know what we’ve already discovered about the men’s basketball programs at Marshall University and West Virginia University?
They are both works in progress.
It showed in Marshall’s season-opening 67-60 win over Robert Morris last Thursday. It showed in WVU season-opening 94-84 win over Akron last Friday. And, yes, it showed again in the Thundering Herd’s lopsided 96-70 loss to Toledo on Sunday in the Cam Henderson Center.
They both did some good things, bad things and dumb things. They played hard, but not particularly well. Forget early-season form. WVU and MU are still in preseason form.
At Marshall, veteran coach Danny D’Antoni still is trying to figure out substitution patterns, trying to add a 3-2 zone defense with the Herd’s usual man-to-man and trying to coax perimeter players to pass the ball inside to Marshall’s young, big guys.
At WVU, veteran coach Bob Huggins is trying to find the best mix of talent, get his players to slow down and trying to get his players to rebound much, much better.
Both coaches have a lot on their plates.
Marshall, for example, is not playing at the up-tempo pace fans have grown accustomed to seeing from D’Antoni-coached teams. Guess what? The fans aren’t going to see that in 2019-20.
Marshall has more size than D’Antoni ever has possessed with 7-0 true freshman Goran Miladinovic and 6-9, 290-pound redshirt sophomore Iran Bennett, along with 6-9 Jannson Williams and 6-9 Mike Beyers, and D’Antoni plans to use it.
“We need to do a better job of getting the ball inside when the opportunity is there,” said D’Antoni. “Offensively, we’ve got some work to do. We’re going to make mistakes. Would I like to see us score more? Yeah. But tempo happens.”
So, does identity.
That’s the crossroads where this particular Marshall team is standing. The Herd still is searching for its identity.
“Absolutely,” agreed D’Antoni. “It’s a learning experience. I said it was going to be up and down all year long and that’s the way it’s going to be.
“We’ve got things to work on. Anytime you’re playing with young players you’re going to have a ‘What the heck happened?’ But they’ll season up.”
The same is true in Morgantown where tempo is also an issue.
“At times, we go too fast,” said Huggins. “We go faster than we are capable of going. At times, guys want to show everybody what they can’t do.”
The Mountaineers also have some personnel issues to address, most notably at the point guard position.
Jordan McCabe is the returning starter, but played only 9:27 compared to true freshman Miles “Deuce” McBride’s nearly 29 minutes of playing time. In fact, McCabe played only 66 seconds in the second half, finishing with two points and three assists.
McBride contributed 11 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals. The Cincinnati native clearly seems to be the future at point guard.
Rebounding and defense also are problems. WVU only out-rebounded much-smaller Akron, 37-36.
“Derek [Culver] was the best rebounder in the league a year ago,” said Huggins. “He needs to be the best rebounder in the league again.”
Culver grabbed only seven boards. Even more problematic, Culver and Huggins clearly are at odds with each other.
Then, there’s the defense that never could put Akron away.
“Defense?” said senior Jermaine Haley. “It was tragic.”