West Virginia fans need to understand something. When they walk into the WVU Coliseum tonight to watch their fourth-ranked Mountaineers take on No. 5 Villanova, they don't only represent themselves, they represent the university.
They represent the young men who play with passion, determination, and class each and every time they don the blue and gold jersey.
Be loud. Be raucous. Be intimidating. Don't be an idiot.
West Virginia's impressive 19-point victory over Pittsburgh in Morgantown last Wednesday was marred by the actions of a few unruly fans. As a former student, I was embarrassed, angry even!
Winning with class is severely underrated.
Tonight is a chance for the Mountaineer faithful to redeem themselves, win or lose, in the national spotlight.
Extra security will encourage better behavior and the Morgantown drunk tank will gladly house anyone who decides that 14th shot of Wild Turkey gives him the right to pelt opposing players and coaches with debris from the stands.
For those that do stay for the entire game, it should be a good one.
Villanova is coming off their first Big East loss, a 103-90 whipping at Georgetown. That might turn out to be a good sign for Jay Wright's team, which hasn't lost back-to-back games since March of 2008.
The Mountaineers have won four of the last five in the series, however, including a 21-point blowout last year in Morgantown.
West Virginia's size poses a match up problem for most teams with four starters listed at 6'7" or taller. Villanova starts a very small lineup in comparison, often running a four-guard set.
If Villanova can't keep the Mountaineer bigs off the glass, it will be a long night for star point guard Scottie Reynolds and company.
Reynolds has struggled in his career against the Mountaineers, being held to just over nine points per game and averaging five turnovers a contest. In last year's loss in Morgantown, he watched his WVU counterpart, Da'Sean Butler, torch the Wildcats for 43 points. Don't think for a second he's forgotten that.
Both teams have balanced scoring but completely different styles of play.
Nobody in the country gets out and runs like Villanova, part of the reason why they lead the Big East in scoring offense. Their smaller, quicker lineup allows them to do that, and do it well.
West Virginia wants to keep a less frenetic pace. Bob Huggins' guys do it with defense, holding teams to just 61.5 points per game.
Four guys average double-digit scoring, headed by the versatile play of Butler—and like Villanova, every guy on the floor can knock it down from behind the arc.
Tonight's victor will gain ground on Syracuse in talks concerning who may be the class of the brutal Big East. Let's just hope it's won with class as well.
Semler's Prediction: WVU 81 'Nova 76