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WVU’s one dimension and kudos to NCAA

MORGANTOWN — Cleaning out a crowded notebook and a cluttered mind:

n West Virginia's 72-62 loss at Oklahoma Wednesday night proved once again how one-dimensional the Mountaineers are. The Sooners took away WVU's outside shooting and in doing so took away any chance the Mountaineers had.

Oh, sure, Juwan Staten made up for it a bit with his drives and mid-range jump shots, but it has become pretty clear that if teams take away WVU's shooters, well, battle won.

"Any team that scouts us knows we shoot a lot of 3-point shots,'' Staten said. "So if they're smart, that's what they'll do. And that's pretty much what we expect them to do. I would expect every team to play us that way and try to make sure we don't get 3-point shots.''

The problem is that aside from Staten simply imposing his will, WVU's other offensive options are limited. Then throw in a defense that he likens to "playing in quicksand or something'' and the truth is that this team just has far too many limitations until its inside game presumably improves with experience and additions next season.

Here's the thing, though, about a team that relies so heavily on just shooting the basketball: It can be very good or very bad, both of which the Mountaineers have been this season. So heading into Saturday's regular-season finale with Kansas and then the Big 12 tournament next week, it's perhaps appropriate that WVU is where it is.

In short, the Mountaineers, now 16-14, would be in the discussion for an at-large NCAA berth with a win over Kansas and probably two more in the Big 12 tournament, which would make them 9-9 in the RPI-No. 1 Big 12, with three wins over Top 25 teams. But a loss to Kansas and then another clunker against, say, Texas Tech in the tournament would leave them 16-16 and probably not even in the NIT.

Having that vast range of possible conclusions to the season is probably just where this entirely unpredictable team belongs.

n Kudos to the NCAA's football rules committee on tabling the 10-second proposal. When it resurfaces — and it will — maybe some thought will have been put into it.

As we wrote a while back, the rule — which would have forced college offenses to wait until at least 10 seconds had run off the 40-second play clock before beginning a play — was nothing more than an attempt by football traditionalists and those who have not embraced the concept of a faster pace of play to change the rules to suit themselves. They used as their rationale the notion that not allowing the defense to substitute increases the risk of injury.

That's a theory that's never been supported by data, but the coaches who want to slow things down figured it was a good argument to make and one that would be hard to fight against without appearing crass. They also needed the injury angle in there because this is an off year for rules changes and so the NCAA will only consider those that deal with player safety.

Anyway, there's no way that the rule should have been strong-armed through like that. Most coaches didn't even know it was being considered until it was officially proposed and sent to a comment period, which is just the kind of sneak attack the rule's proponents wanted. Tabling it now allows for discussion.

In truth, there should be discussion. The proposal, or something similar to it, is not entirely bad. Yes, it is clearly — clearly and without a shred of doubt whatsoever — an attempt by defense-minded types to allow situational substitutions that they cannot now make unless the offense also substitutes. That's a huge advantage for the offense.

There are two things to consider, though, and they are likely to be the focus of any future discussion of the proposal or its offshoot. First, is there any sort of health risk? The fact that there is absolutely no data to support that theory now is reason enough to dismiss any proposal that purports to be one involving safety, but it's no reason not to seek real data.

But perhaps what should be discussed even if the safety issue turns out to be a non-starter is this: When will the defense ever get a break?

Whether it concerns contact with receivers, hitting the quarterback, targeting or any of a number of other rules, hasn't virtually every piece of legislation in the game during the modern era favored the offense? Yes, until the ball is snapped, the defense has free rein. It can move all 11 guys, put them all in motion, go forward, go backward, have as many players on the line as they want (all 11 or none). The offense can't do any of those things.

Yet once the ball is snapped, the offense has almost all the advantages (save for blockers not being able to grab and hold things). They have complete control over when the play starts, what kind of play it is, their receivers can run almost unimpeded anywhere they want to go and the quarterback is in a virtual cocoon.

Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing to allow the defense to at least rush the players it wants onto the field. Just be honest about it and don't try to disguise it as something it's not.

n And finally, why are there 10 players on the All-Big 12 women's basketball team?

I hate that. It's a cop out. Sure, it's nice to spread the wealth and it doesn't harm a soul, but it's also the easy way out, a mechanism by which no one's feelings are hurt.

Everybody gets a trophy.

That's nice when you're 6 years old. You're not 6 anymore.

The Big 12 women aren't the only ones who do it, of course. A lot of leagues, men's and women's, name all-conference teams that are really a first team and a second team combined so that everyone is happy. But that still doesn't mean it's right.

Shoot, that West Virginia's Mike Carey was named the league's coach of the year — Asya Bussie and Bria Holmes were named to the All-Big 12 first team — is nice, but shouldn't there have been co-coaches of the year?

After all, aren't they coaching 10 players on the floor?

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1

 


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