In facing St. John's, the Mountaineers are meeting a team going in the opposite direction of late. While West Virginia has won three in a row and five of its last six, the Red Storm has lost four in a row and six of seven. The most recent was a 79-76 overtime loss to Villanova at the Garden on Saturday.
And while WVU is a young team with only three veterans, St. John's is even younger. Four of the Red Storm starters and five of the top seven players are freshmen, and the fifth starter is a junior-college transfer. St. John's consistently uses only seven players.
The Red Storm is also playing without coach Steve Lavin at courtside. Lavin had surgery for prostate cancer in early October, returned to the bench for four games early in the season, but since then has watched most games from a box in the Garden while he recovers.
If that's not bad enough, nine games into the season one of the best of the team's newcomers, guard Nudreen Lindsey, quit the team. Lindsey, who averaged 11.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists, enrolled at Rider earlier this week.
St. John's is led by the Big East's top freshman scorer and No. 2 rebounder, 6-foot-8, 208-pound Moe Harkless, averaging 15.6 points and 8.4 rebounds. Guard D'Angelo Harrison averages 14.6 points. The only upperclassman in the rotation is that junior college transfer, 6-8, 236-pound God'sgift Achiuwa (11.6 points, 6.7 rebounds). The other starters are 6-5 wing Sir'Dominic Pointer and 5-9 point guard Phil Greene.
On the bench are 6-6 Amir Garrett, who was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds and throws a 96 mile per hour fastball, and the only member of the rotation who was on last year's team, 5-11 guard Malik Stith.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.