Column - Five keys for WVU success in NCAA Tournament
Published: Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 8, 2012 07:03
As the West Virginia women's basketball team awaits its fate in the NCAA Tournament after losing to Notre Dame in the semifinals of the Big East tournament, I thought I would take a look at a few things the team needs to do to have success in this year's big dance.
Consistently run offense through Asya Bussie & Ayana Dunning
When the Mountaineer offense looks good, it runs its high-low offense with Dunning making passes down into the post to Bussie, or vice versa.
The two junior forwards usually get an easy layup or create enough room to get a shot off in the paint. They can also dish the ball back out to the perimeter to players like sophomore guard Taylor Palmer (who scored 11 points and made three 3-pointers in the quarterfinal game against Georgetown) and freshman guard Linda Stepney.
When they run that offense effectively, it opens up opportunities for balanced scoring across the board for the Mountaineers. Both post players can score when they want to and have improved their passing game to create shots for other players on the team. When the offense gets those two the ball, they can compete with almost anyone in the country.
When the offense looks bad, it "stands around" as WVU head coach Mike Carey often has said this year. West Virginia at times, struggles to pass the ball and move to get the ball in the half-court offense. When that happens, players turn the ball over and it creates a transition bucket for the opposing team. They are also forced to take bad shots because they run the shot clock down to under 10 seconds and can't create shots for themselves when nobody is moving to the ball.
Play physical for 40
Carey has a slogan "Physical for 40," which means to guard your man tight and don't let them get by you, specifically on the defensive end.
Carey prides his team on playing hard, physical defense,and his players know they have to put everything on the line around this time of year, not that they don't all year long, but being even more aggressive and smart on defense in the postseason can lead to winning games against the top-tier teams, like Notre Dame and UConn.
The Mountaineers shied away from playing physical defense in the semifinals against Notre Dame, and the Irish took full advantage of it, scoring almost at will for long stretches of the game.
Carey said it himself. If his team does that in the tournament, it's going to be a short trip.
I know it's a cliche, but the Mountaineers have averaged 18 turnovers per game this season. To me, that seems way too high if they want to make a deep run in the tournament. I'm sure WVU is going to see a half-court trap or some type of press they normally wouldn't see against a team in the Big East.
Carey is going to have to get is players ready for all situations and make sure they make the right passes at the right times. You don't want 18 turnovers to turn into 25 points for the other team. You're not going to win many games being careless with the ball.
Be more aggressive on offense
I noticed a lot of WVU players passing up shots during the Big East tournament, especially in the semifinal against Notre Dame.
WVU has good perimeter shooters in Palmer, redshirt sophomore Christal Caldwell and freshman guard Akilah Bethel. A lot of times it seemed like they could have shot the ball over a defender, but they were only looking to pass.
Bussie and Dunning can only take WVU so far in the postseason. Other players are going to have to take shots at certain times, maybe even in game-winning situations. Doing so will only give these young players more confidence heading into next season.
Keep up high energy
Any team is usually tough to beat when they play with high energy and enthusiasm. Especially, defensive-minded teams like West Virginia. But, this has to do with offense too.
As I said before, WVU can sometimes get stagnant on offense, and it seems like they will never get the ball in the basket.
When Dunning got the ball in the low post in the second half against Notre Dame, she was almost unstoppable and that's when the Mountaineers made a slight comeback. Her energy, toughness and determination to score fueled the team.
Dunning, Bussie and sophomore forward Jess Harlee are the true leaders on the team. They have to keep everyone playing at a high level and get on them if they're not.