Juwan Staten, West Virginia Plays Georgetown Tonight in NIT 1st Round

Split by conference realignment two years ago, West Virginia (17-15, 9-9 Big 12) faces off with longtime foe Georgetown (17-14, 8-10 Big East) from the original Big East Conference in the first round of this year’s NIT tournament.

The Mountaineers, a No. 5 seed in the tournament, will face the Hoyas, a No. 4 seed, at 7PM tonight on ESPN. Although the Hoyas typically play home games at the Verizon Center in downtown Washington, DC, tonight’s game will be featured at the more intimate McDonough Gym on campus, which features seating for only 2,500 people.

West Virginia won the 2007 NIT Championship in the team’s last appearance in the postseason tournament, while Georgetown was eliminated in the first round by Baylor in 2009.

But tonight, neither team will enter the game with much, if any, momentum following conference tournament play through the past week.

Georgetown dropped the regular season finale against No. 7 Villanova and was eliminated in the first round of the Big East Conference tournament for the first time since 2011. Texas knocked around West Virginia in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament, 66-49, as the Mountaineers shot a season-low 30 percent from the field and scored the lowest amount of points since February 2012.

All-Big East First Team selection guard Markel Starks and second team selection guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera will bring a solid tandem attack for Georgetown. Starks and Smith-Rivera each averaged 17 points per game and more than 35 minutes played each game this season.

Not to be forgotten, forward Mikael Hopkins will be the best option to cover the inside for the Hoyas. Hopkins had very respectable numbers with 6.2 points per game and 5.2 rebounds per game this season.

The main focus for West Virginia is to put the poor performances against Texas in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Conference tournament in the rear view and return to fantastic play that saw them knock off No. 8 Kansas in the regular season finale.

Terry Henderson, Juwan Staten and Eron Harris each averaged more than 10 points per game in the regular season so the 15 points combined from the trio against the Longhorns hopefully is just one time thing, not a trend.

Staten will be the key for the Mountaineers making it to NIT finals at Madison Square Garden after scoring in double digit figures in all but two games this season. The same is true for Harris that picked it up greatly after Henderson went down with an illness during the stretch run of the year.

In their most recent matchup, West Virginia defeated then-No. 9 Georgetown at the WVU Coliseum on January 7, 2012. The Mountaineers currently have a five-game winning streak over the Hoyas and has won seven of the past 10 games dating back to 2006.

Ultimately for both teams, a run in the NIT builds experience and is usually a spring board into a deep run in the next year’s NCAA Tournament as seen with West Virginia’s Sweet Sixteen run in the 2008 tournament.

The winner of West Virginia and Georgetown will either travel to face No. 1 seed Florida State on the road in Tallahassee or will host No. 8 seed Florida Gulf Coast later this week.

This post can originally be found on WVUPros.com. You can also follow WVU Pros at @WVUPros on Twitter.

Big 12 Championship: No. 5 West Virginia Falls to No. 7 Baylor in Conference Final, 74-71

No. 5 West Virginia (29-4) failed to capture their first conference title in 25 years, dropping a 74-71 decision to No. 7 Baylor (29-4) in the Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship game.

The Baylor dynasty continues as the title is the fourth in a row dating back to the 2011 season, as well as the fifth in the past six seasons. If you go back even further, you will see the Lady Bears have won six conference titles in the past decade.

Sophomore Bria Holmes turned in a fantastic game for the Mountaineers with 19 points in the first half before fouling out with seconds remaining in the game and finishing with 24 points. Averee Fields and Linda Stepney each added 10 points in the losing effort.

The Lady Bears were led by a balanced with a pair of 19-point performances by Niya Johnson and Odyssey Sims, along with 16 from Nina Davis.

West Virginia and Baylor traded the lead through the second half until four late free throws from Johnson sealed the game for the reigning Big 12 Champions.

The loss to the Lady Bears also keeps the Mountaineers from setting the all-time wins record for a season until at least the first game of the NCAA Tournament. This year’s West Virginia team is tied with the team from the 29-win season from 2010, which made it to the second round of the NCAAs that year.

Even with the Mountaineers’ second loss this calendar year to Baylor, there has been plenty to be excited about with awards and for what’s to come the rest of the year.

Coach Mike Carey won the Big 12 Coach of the Year, the third time the coach was honored with the award. He also won the 2004 and 2010 Big East Coach of the Year.

Senior Asya Bussie and sophomore Bria Holmes were named to the All-Big 12 First Team last week, while senior Jess Harlee and Bussie were named to the Big 12 Defensive Team.

Senior Taylor Palmer also won the Big 12 Sixth Man Award with 10.2 points and 3 rebounds per game coming off the bench this season.

While looking ahead to the NCAA Women’s Tournament, the current bracketology from ESPN’s Charlie Crème pins WVU as a No. 3 seed in the South Bend region, but that will likely remain the same heading into Selection Monday.

If the seeds don’t vary much before next week, West Virginia could wind up playing Texas and Baylor for a fourth time this season in potential Sweet 16 and Final Four matchups.

This is nothing new for the team playing a team on four different occasions as the Mountaineers played Penn State (1-3) four times in 1984 and Marshall (3-1) in 1978.

Despite the setback tonight in the Big 12 Championship Final, Carey and West Virginia still have plenty to accomplish as the all important second season begins on March 22nd.

You can follow Chris on Twitter at @_CBH_ as well as WVU Pros at @WVUPros for more information about West Virginia Mountaineer news.

New York Jets: QB Geno Smith Would Improve With Addition of Michael Vick

Gang Green might be the new favorite shade of green for free agent Michael Vick after spending the past four seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

The New York Jets are being rumored to be interested in signing the former No. 1 overall pick from the 2001 NFL Draft this offseason to help bolster the quarterback position this season.

Vick, who was replaced by Nick Foles midway through the 2013 season, could still bring a lot of positives to the Jets even with the prime of his career behind him and turning 34 years old this June.

The biggest of those positives would be to help in the development of second-year quarterback Geno Smith, which had considerable ups and downs in his first season in the NFL.

In 2013, Smith completed 247 of his 443 pass attempts, along with tossing only 12 touchdown passes and 21 interceptions in 16 games played for the Jets. Not to add insult to injury, the 21 interceptions was the most by a rookie quarterback since Peyton Manning tossed 28 in his first season in Indianapolis during the 1998 season.

Smith’s numbers at the end of his first season should have come to no surprise for a rookie to be roughed up by the caliber of today’s NFL defenses following the jump from West Virginia and the Big 12 Conference.

Even with that rough freshman season in 2013, the Jets’ focus should stick to supporting Smith as the team’s starting quarterback, instead of bringing in Vick to take the signal caller job in 2014.

At the same time, Smith would be motivated to improve and keep his spot on the team with the 11-year veteran nipping at his heels during training camp and the preseason.

Smith didn’t have that type of pressure on him from a backup last season, so he could be pushed to avoid another late season slump and push the Jets into the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.

Vick could also help speed up Smith’s understanding of the play calling with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg this season, which held the same position during Vick’s time with the Eagles during the 2009-2012 seasons.

The Jets’ offense, which was poor in every category outside of the running game with Chris Ivory, would be helped greatly if the organization selected a wide receiver with the 18th pick in this year’s NFL Draft.

Texas A&M’s Mike Evans could give Smith a big target to look for sprinting down the sideline, which could drastically improve the Jets’ passing game that ranked 30th last season.

If the case of an injury happens in the preseason or early in the regular season, Smith would still have a backup that could step in as starting quarterback in an offense that he should grasp with Mornhinweg.

With potential still yet to be uncovered in Smith, the Jets needs to add the consistency and leadership of Vick to the franchise’s quarterback position instead of another quarterback controversy along sidelines of MetLife Stadium.

You can follow Chris at @_CBH_ on Twitter. This post can also be seen at WVU Pros. You can follow WVU Pros at @WVUPros on Twitter.

WVU Upsets No. 8 Kansas Despite 41 Points from Freshman Andrew Wiggins

Coach Bob Huggins kept his promise to Mountaineer fans today as West Virginia (17-14) upset No. 8 Kansas (23-8), 92-86, the first victory in three meetings since joining the Big 12 Conference.

Following the Mountaineers’ 83-69 loss to Kansas earlier this season, Huggins promised during the post game show with Tony Caridi that his team would beat the Jayhawks when they played during the regular season finale.

Jayhawks’ guard Andrew Wiggins didn’t make that task very easy as the future NBA Lottery pick went for 41 points and eight rebounds, the 13th time West Virginia has allowed more than 41 points to an opponent.

Forward Perry Ellis also added 14 points in the loss, while guard Frank Mason chipped in 10 points for the only two other players to score in double digits for Kansas.

West Virginia was led by a trio of 20-point performances in the win as Eron Harris had a team-high 28 points, Juwan Staten adding 24 and Devin Williams rounding it out with 22.

Terry Henderson, who has missed the last four games due to illness, returned to the team today, but played only 15 minutes and scored 4 points in the game.

Wayne Selden Jr’s three-point jumper gave the Jayhawks the team’s only lead of the game at 3-2 at the 18:32 mark in the 1st half. The score was only tied once moments later at 9-9 with 16:32 following a Wiggins’ layup.

With West Virginia leading 50-38, it was the most points allowed at the end of the 1st half by Kansas all season.

Kansas allowed 50 points in the 1st half against West Virginia, the most 1st-half points it has allowed in a game all season.

Kansas was able to trim West Virginia’s once 25-point lead down to just five points with less than a minute to go in the game before late free throws from Staten and Harris preserving the victory.

On top of the first victory over a Top 10 since No. 9 Georgetown in January 2012, Huggins received a 25,000 bonus today for beating the Jayhawks, one of the clauses included in his contract extension in the same year.

West Virginia will be the No. 6 seed in the 2014 Phillips 66 Big 12 men’s basketball tournament and play the No. 3 seed on March 13th in Kansas City.