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Across the Court: Q&A with The Smoking Musket

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

RCT: So West Virginia got off to a hot start in the Big 12. Lately though, they have run into quite the skid. I've heard two competing thoughts on this. First is that the schedule was extremely back-loaded, so the Mountaineers looked a whole lot better than they actually are. Second is that people have started to figure out the Huggins press and the game-planning is so much better now. Which is it, or is there something else entirely going on?

TSM: I think it's a little bit of both, to be honest. There's no argument that the schedule is extremely backloaded. We got our season series with TCU and Texas Tech and the four wins that come with those games out of the way early. We've yet to play Kansas and Oklahoma State.

At the same time, the press is definitely becoming something of a liability. It's been figured out to an extent, and teams have been throwing it over the top to get quick buckets. The problem lies in the fact that we really don't have a plan B when the press breaks down. The half court offense is generally a dumpster fire, so any attempt at slowing it down and trying to play half court man or a 1-3-1 look would be a disaster.

We're very much a live by the sword and die by the sword team, and at this point it is what it is.

RCT: It's a little strange to be facing a team for the first time so late in the season. Do you wish you could have faced the Jayhawks earlier in the season, or is it nice to have two opportunities for a marquee win down the stretch?

TSM: Especially with the slide we've found ourselves in, I do enjoy having the opportunity to get two huge wins down the stretch against a very high quality team. Conversely, I would have liked to get our trip to the Phog out of the way earlier when we were playing at our best. There was about a .5% chance we got a road win at Kansas before this slide, so those chances are basically done at this point.

RCT: Juwan Staten made a name for himself nationally last year, and Devin Williams has been a force down low this year, but two players does not a team make. Who else has been key to the Mountaineers' run this year?

TSM: We're a team that's been defined by depth and young guys stepping up at key times. Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles, Jay'Sean Paige, and Tarik Phillip have all stepped up and made plays and it seems as though we have guard depth for the first time in a million years. Down low, it's been a bit of a mixed bag, to be honest. Dev has been great, but we need more consistency from guys like Brandon Watkins and (especially) Jon Holton. If Dev isn't on, it's tough for us to do much at all.

RCT: Getting to the game at hand, the press has given you guys mixed results, but it appears that Kansas is one of the teams that is not set up to handle this type of defense very well. Are you expecting this to be a big advantage in today's game?

TSM: I'm at a pretty low confidence point with #PressVirginia for reasons that are explained above. Still, you're right in that Kansas isn't the best team at handling a press so I'm hopefully that we can get some early fast break points and get some momentum.

Once the press gets broken, however, is when I start fearing compete collapse. We're extremely trap-happy and Kansas has been great at passing out of traps and hitting wide open threes. That's the recipe for WVU to get into a giant hole early that they can't overcome.

RCT: Your prediction? Can Kansas get a vital win on the road to extend their lead in the conference, or will West Virginia help everyone out by taking down the top dog at home again this year?

TSM: I think that Kansas gets this win, at least in a vacuum. They're the better team and WVU is at a bit of a low point. However, the Coliseum is a weird, weird place. I remember watching a really bad team beat a Kansas team that was led by Andrew Wiggins' 41 points. The home court advantage is real in college basketball and Morgantown is a hornet's next, especially if WVU can make some plays early and get momentum.

Still, I do think Kansas pulls away in the second half and wins.

RCT: BONUS - Sonic the Hedgehog or Link from The Legend of Zelda? Explain using any reason you want.

Bonus: Link, easily. His arsenal is unmatched. Arrows, bombs, time travel, sword lasers. Plus, Pegasus Boots/Seeds will mitigate the speed issue.