Spokane, WA (Sports Network) - The West Virginia Mountaineers have a chance to avenge last year's season ending loss in the NCAA Tournament as they visit the McCarthey Athletic Center to take on the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
The Mountaineers are making their debut as a member of the Big 12 this season under the accomplished Bob Huggins. WVU's coach spent one season in the league before at Kansas State, where he led the Wildcats to a 23-12 record in 2006-2007 before taking over at his alma mater. West Virginia's makeup is much different than it was last season's team that went 19-14, but its new talent will keep the Mountaineers highly competitive yet a gain.
Gonzaga looks to continue its impressive run as one of the nation's top mid- major programs under Mark Few. The Bulldogs have reached the NCAA Tournament in each of the past 14 seasons, and reached the West Coast Conference Tournament championship game in each of the past 16 seasons. Few's squad opened up the season with a 103-65 rout of Southern Utah. The Bulldogs played very well offensively in the victory with 18 assists to nine turnovers and a 54.8 percent shooting clip from the field.
WVU's offense will revolve around a pair of Atlantic 10 transfers. Junior Center Aaric Murray (6-10, 245) is a legitimate scoring threat in the post. Murray drew attention from NBA scouts by averaging 15.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per contest for La Salle in 2011-2012. Sophomore guard Juwan Staten decided to relocate to Morgantown after leading the A-10 with 190 assists as a freshman at Dayton. Deniz Kilicli is the team's top returning scorer (10.7 ppg). He will benefit from the point guard play of Hinds very much. Matt Humphrey also transferred to the program after netting 10.3 ppg for Boston College in 2011-2012.
Just as Kevin Pangos did in Gonzaga's opener last season, Przemek Karnowski stole the show in his collegiate debut. The backup big man scored 22 points in 20 minutes to lead the way for the Bulldogs. Pangos displayed perfect point guard play with 10 points, six assists, four steals, and zero turnovers. The sophomore guard can catch fire from beyond the arc. He is backed up by David Stockton, son of former Utah Jazz star John Stockton. Gary Bell Jr. is an excellent off-guard with ability at both ends of the floor. Sam Dower, Guy Landy Edi, and Elias Harris give the Zags a formidable frontcourt. All three scored in double figures versus SUU.