The West Virginia Mountaineers (5-1) host the Bellarmine Knights (2-5) in the first-ever meeting between the two programs Tuesday night at 7:00 and will be streaming on ESPN+.
Schuyler Callihan: West Virginia 79, Bellarmine 59
Bellarmine is in year two as a Division-I team after having a ton of success at the D-II level. It's going to take some time for them to get the right players into their program so they can replicate that success at a higher level. Head coach Scott Davenport isn't afraid to play against the very best scheduling games with UCLA, Gonzaga, Purdue, and West Virginia. Playing these games will help his program in the long term, but they are struggling at the moment.
Bellarmine's offense is predicated to use back door cuts, motion, and screens. The one area that WVU has struggled defending this season has been allowing drives down the lane that lead to kick-outs for three. Bellarmine isn't going to jack up a ton of threes and when they do, they won't shoot it at a high clip. As long as WVU's bigs do what they are supposed to do, the Knights will have a hard time finding the bottom of the net.
Mountaineers by 20.
Christopher Hall: West Virginia 86 Bellarmine 71
Bellarmine lost five straight to begin the season, including blowout losses to Gonzaga and Purdue, but in the fifth game, the Knights cut a 22-point second-half UCLA lead down to 10 with a little under five minutes remaining. Unfortunately, Bellarmine didn't cut the deficit to single digits. Still, it appears to have given a group that finished second in the ASUN Conference in their inaugural season last year confidence, having now won back-to-back games.
West Virginia continues to get a "wake-up call" with close games against mid-majors, most recently, having to make a come back against Eastern Kentucky at home Friday night, and a loss against Marquette in the Charleson the week before. Taz Sherman has carried the Mountaineers in the early going averaging 20.5 points per game.
Bellarmine runs the pack line defense, daring opponents to shoot over them. This could open things up for Sean McNeil. He is coming off a 15-point second half performance against Eastern Kentucky and was intricate in the Mountaineers' comeback.
I believe the Mountaineers will have a better start against the Knights than they did on Friday. However, West Virginia is still meshing. Communication and effort will be key defensively while the Mountaineers must make shots. I think we see some improvement from West Virginia now that they've run off Thanksgiving dinner. Mountaineers win comfortably, 86-71.
You can follow us for future coverage by liking us on Facebook & following us Twitter:
Facebook - @WVUonSI