MORGANTOWN - Chances are it won't matter all that much tonight when West Virginia plays host to Robert Morris. After all, the Colonials are extremely undersized and aren't likely to pose much of a threat with their big men.
But sooner rather than later, Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins knows he's going to have to begin getting more production out of his own big men. More than any shortcomings in running a set offense or playing team defense, that might be the biggest concern he has.
"We can't trade them, although if we could a couple of them might be on the block,'' Huggins cracked Monday. "We just have to keep working with them to get better.''
The problem for West Virginia (5-2) heading into today's 7 p.m. game with Robert Morris (3-4) at the Coliseum is the play of centers Deniz Kilicli and Dan Jennings. Prior to the season, those two were looked upon as a strength, at least from the standpoint that Huggins likes strong post players and in those two had the potential for that.
But after seven games, the 6-foot-9, 270-pound Kilicli is averaging just 5.3 points and 4.3 rebounds, is shooting just 37 percent and has nearly as many fouls and turnovers combined (27) as rebounds (30) and points (37). He's averaging less than 15 minutes per game.
Jennings, Kilicli's 6-8, 260-pound backup, is playing about 13 minutes per game and is averaging just 2.8 points. He averages 4.2 rebounds, but his combined fouls and turnovers (19) exceed his points (17).
Because neither has performed up to expectations, undersized Cam Thoroughman and freshman Kevin Noreen have had to fill in, but both are playing out of position.
A year ago, when the Mountaineers won a school-record 31 games and went to the Final Four for the first time in 51 years, they managed to get by without a powerful post figure most of the time, playing forward Wellington Smith inside and making use of Kevin Jones, Da'Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks to rebound and score inside.
But going without a center now is problematic. Smith, Butler and Ebanks are gone and few on this year's roster have those same skill sets.
"The truth is we started getting better when Wellington started making [outside] shots. [Opposing team's big men] had to go out and guard him and it opened things up,'' Huggins said. "We don't have anyone [among the centers] who can probably do that.''