by Greg Talkington
MORGANTOWN -- Second-year West Virginia coach John Beilein isn't sure whether playing No. 24 Syracuse after its 49-46 upset of No. 6 Pitt Sunday is a good thing or a bad thing.
The Mountaineers (14-11, 6-8 Big East) face the defending national champions today at the Coliseum in their regular-season home finale. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. and can be viewed on WVFX, Fox 46 (channel 7 on local cable).
"To be honest, while watching the film I thought about are we catching them playing really good basketball, or might we catch them a little overconfident," Beilein said. "But when you're facing a coach as good as Jim Boeheim, I don't think it matters one way or another.
"You know he'll have them ready to play no matter what the circumstances."
The Orangemen (19-6, 9-5) defeated WVU twice last season, including a 94-80 win at the Coliseum. In that game, the Mountaineers opened up a near-20-point lead in the first half, only to see Syracuse rally for the win.
"Our 1-3-1 gave them problems early, but once they figured it out and started using their rim-rockers, we couldn't stop them," Beilein said. "The 1-3-1 usually doesn't work against teams with guys who play at the rim and Syracuse has several guys who play at the rim.
"We have a lot of different things in our packages, but that doesn't mean any of them will work. We'll see."
Junior forward Hakeem Warrick (6-8, 209) has been Syracuse's most consistent performer, averaging 19.7 points and 9.0 rebounds. Sophomore guard Gerry McNamara (6-2, 179) adds 16 points while junior guard Josh Pace (6-5, 195) adds 9.9 points.
"Warrick has size, quickness and a great feel for the game," Beilein said. "He's almost freakish with those long arms.
"And McNamara is one of those gritty, tough players that leads them."
As for the Mountaineers, they will honor senior forward Jonathan Curran and manager Wesley Brooks before the game.
Curran, a walk-on who played his high school basketball at Robert C. Byrd, has been invaluable to the team, Beilein said.
"Every player on our team has great respect for Jonathan," Beilein said. "One is, because he does so much for the team in practice and is such a positive influence on and off the court. The second reason is that he can play.
"If I were still at Richmond and he was a senior in high school, I'd recruit him as a scholarship player. That's how good of a player he is. One of the best things I've done since I've been here is choose him for our squad."
Sports writer Greg Talkington can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at email@example.com