| By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com|
January 14, 2006
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It’s kind of becoming a pattern this year when opposing coaches face John Beilein’s West Virginia basketball team. Outstanding college basketball coaches – some of the very best in the country – simply marvel afterward at the way Beilein’s team plays the game.
Whether it’s their remarkable spacing or their unselfishness and uncanny ability to get the best possible shot, at times it appears as if all five West Virginia players on the floor are playing as one.
When West Virginia is clicking on all cylinders it’s absolutely a beautiful thing to watch – no matter if you’re new to the game coming to the WVU Coliseum and dropping 20 bucks for the very first time or someone like Marquette coach Tom Crean who’s been to the Final Four and coached one of the best players on the planet in Dwyane Wade.
“Whether it was TV, a book, or seeing it in person I can’t say I’ve seen many better complete performances than what I saw from West Virginia today,” Crean said following his team’s 104-85 loss to West Virginia Saturday in one of the more entertaining games ever played at the Coliseum.
The Marquette coach admits the West Virginia system is unique, but it’s really the players operating within it that makes it so special.
“John’s system is a great system and it’s his own system. It really is. You would be doing it a disservice to say it’s like this team or like that team,” he said. “But I’m not sure the system got us as much as it was the players. The players make that go. Their togetherness on the floor, their ability to be committed to spacing, and their ability to make the extra pass immediately is phenomenal.”
WVU senior forward Mike Gansey scored a career-high 33 points, but it was his all-around play; his toughness and his ability to stay in character that impressed Crean most.
“John (Beilein) and the people here in Morgantown are probably the president of the fan club, but I’m a charter member -- I’m serious,” said Crean. “I told (Mike) after the game that the greatest compliment I could give him was that we watched film of him -- how he plays and how he rebounds -- before we ever prepared to play against them. I think he’s that good.”
Crean is convinced that the 6-foot-4-inch guard/forward (now averaging 19.7 points per game and shooting an unbelievable 62.6 percent from the field after Saturday’s game) is going to make a very good living playing this sport for many years to come.
“Anybody who has an opportunity to take him at the next level would be absolutely ridiculous not to because he makes everybody better,” said Crean. “He’s a tremendous shooter; extremely quick and athletic. He made some 3s where he was open and he made some 3s where he wasn’t. The greatest sign of a guy that scores 33 is he never, ever once got out of character.”
Crean also had a poignant message for the West Virginia fans: “I hope all these fans here understand just how good that team is,” he said graciously. “This is not just special for West Virginia. I don’t know the West Virginia history like most of you do, but that is a special college basketball team right there - very special. They’re special for the Big East and special for the country. They really, really play well together.”
Perhaps Georgetown coach John Thompson, III, whose team lost 68-61 to the Mountaineers earlier this week, summed up Beilein’s WVU team best: “If you don’t appreciate the way they play then you’re a fool.”
Saturday, January 14, 2006
A Thing of Beauty
A Thing of Beauty