If you follow my Twitter (or X, whatev) account, you know I watched Monday night’s WVU men’s basketball game against SMU and commented.
“Tough watching WVU hoops,” I wrote, “because the kids give effort and do so many good things but you know they’re outmanned in almost every game.”
Because of the fallout from the Bob Huggins situation – a top-shelf roster being decimated by transfers – interim coach Josh Eilert is playing against a stacked deck. With but a seven-man rotation of which to speak, Eilert has to move as far away as possible from the days of “Press Virginia.” He’s employed a 2-3 zone. He’s calling timeouts to rest some of his players.
And now they sit at 2-2. An NCAA tournament team last season, they struggled with Missouri State. They lost to Monmouth. They beat Jacksonville State by 13 at home. And SMU wore down WVU after halftime and outscored the Mountaineers 45-22 in the second half.
As I wrote, it’s tough to watch if you care about WVU hoops, especially after all the success through the years.
Have I given completely up on these Mountaineers? No. Maybe when Kerr Kriisa returns from suspension, he’ll be a spark. Hopefully Akok Akok can return from health concerns.
We now know, though, RaeQuan Battle’s waiver appeal was cruelly denied. And our eyes see what they see. Maybe WVU will surprise us and upset Nov. 24 Virginia in Fort Myers on Wednesday. Yet teams with athleticism and depth will give WVU fits this season. They’ll wear down the Mountaineers.
Yet I’ll support them, not only because it’s my alma mater, but because of the situation they’re in of no fault of their own. Also, while so many bailed, those on the WVU roster chose to stay, whether NIL related or not. And this isn’t Eilert’s fault. The first half of the SMU game showed he’s got some coaching chops.
So, as we approach Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’ll support them, and cheer when they rise up and win. It’s sort of in the spirit I saw out of – are you ready for this? – Aaron Rodgers on Tuesday.
Most in the national sporting community have been dumping on New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson. His play has been bad (OK, awful) and sent from starter to third string. Rodgers, who was scheduled to lead the J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets to great things before a torn Achilles, was asked about the situation on the Pat McAfee Show.
He took the approach with Wilson I’m taking with WVU’s hoops team. We see what’s there. Is bashing going to help?
“I feel for Zach,” Rodgers said. “I love Zach. He’s such a great kid. I do think he still has a bright future in the league. This has been a tough go for all of us. A lot of times in these situations there’s certain guys that got to scapegoat. There’s enough blame to go around at a number of different positions. If you have 10 guys doing it right on a play and one guy not, it’s hard to be efficient.”
Later, he continued.
“Obviously, this is not the way any of this thought this would go down,” Rodgers said. “It was going to be me and my show and Zach getting to learn and watch first-hand and not have the pressure of having to play.
“Obviously, this is disappointing. I have some personal guilt around the whole thing. I mean, I’m pissed I wasn’t able to play. I’m frustrated. I feel if I was out there and playing well there would be different narratives around our team and Zach would have the opportunity to learn and grow and see what it looks like without having the pressure on.”
It was nice to see a man who many times comes off as brash, cocky or even arrogant, understand the situation and throw support. And the way he concluded is how I’ll move forward in relation to the Mountaineer basketball team.
“I’m disappointed and sad about that but it is what it is,” Rodgers said about Wilson. “We’re all going to move forward, but we’re also going to put our arms around him and love him. It’s not all his fault, but it’s the way it goes sometimes.”
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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.