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WVU faces UMass underneath weight of extra drama unfolding across the Mountaineers

MORGANTOWN — There shall be a WVU males’s basketball recreation Saturday, that a lot we could be positive of.

It is going to be performed in Springfield, Mass., the positioning of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Corridor of Fame.

A yr in the past, the Corridor of Fame was an emblem of endorsement towards the WVU hoops program with the enshrinement of former head coach Bob Huggins.

A yr later, this Corridor of Fame Traditional match-up towards UMass (5-2) has taken on a complete different which means.

Within the case of the Mountaineers (4-5), a lot that now defines this system hasn’t come from motion on a basketball courtroom, however quite a courtroom of regulation.

Different off-the-court points led to Huggins’ resignation that took on nationwide enchantment as soon as he started to problem that resignation this previous summer season.

That led to Josh Eilert’s hiring as an interim coach, and he’s now overseeing a program as soon as once more within the nationwide highlight on account of what might find yourself being a historic authorized motion involving guard RaeQuan Battle and the NCAA.

The small print of that case are ongoing. Briefly, it’s change into a federal battle to power the NCAA to change or fully kill its present switch guidelines.

The NCAA responded Thursday to a 14-day momentary restraining order (TRO) levied by a federal courtroom in Wheeling to halt the enforcement of these guidelines, stating that any beforehand ineligible athletes who play through the TCO might lose a yr of eligibility if the NCAA had been to in the end win the case.

It’s that response that will preserve Battle and teammate Noah Farrakhan — each sitting out, as a result of they’re two-time transfers — out of motion for WVU, which has but to difficulty any sort of assertion if the 2 will play towards the Minutemen.

There are some issues we do know, starting with this recreation marking the return of level guard Kerr Kriisa — he having been dealt a nine-game suspension by the NCAA for accepting improper advantages whereas nonetheless enrolled at Arizona.

“You might see it in his eyes that he’ll have the ability to compete underneath the lights. He’s turned it up a notch,” Eilert stated. “He’s excited to run the present, and that’s what we introduced him in right here to do. I don’t know what his recreation legs shall be like. Kerr has practiced, however he has missed these recreation reps. Recreation reps and apply reps could be completely different.”

We additionally know WVU’s focus shall be on UMass forwards Josh Cohen and Matt Cross, who mix to attain 34 factors and seize 16 rebounds per recreation.

“(UMass is) actually good at offensive rebounding — prime 10 within the nation — and likewise second-chance factors,” Eilert stated.

Nonetheless, the unimaginable job will as soon as once more be out of attain for Eilert and his gamers, which is to say make what occurs on the courtroom larger than the drama that’s unfolding across the group off the courtroom.

That drama hasn’t been restricted to only a teaching change, which might be one factor.

It’s included Kriisa’s suspension and the return of ahead Akok Akok, who missed seven video games after a scary collapse in an exhibition recreation earlier than the season started.

Freshman guard Ofri Naveh, a local of Israel, is dealing each day with the hardships that include a warfare being fought in his house nation.

And now a federal courtroom struggle surrounds this system, a struggle that solely has the doable way forward for the NCAA hanging within the steadiness.

In so some ways, this season has already developed into greater than what anybody signed up for, doubtless most of all Eilert.

“I’d be mendacity if I stated it hadn’t affected me,” he stated. “There’s plenty of challenges I went by way of. “Has it affected me? Most likely somewhat, however I’m going house to a spouse that has an awesome head on her shoulders. She retains issues in perspective. I’ve that going for me.

“I take a look at an enormous progress alternative for myself as properly. Some folks say coaches can go a decade and never undergo the kind of challenges you went by way of in six months. I don’t take a look at it that manner. I take a look at it as taking good care of enterprise and representing this college and my household.”


WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: MassMutual Heart, Springfield, Mass.
TV: ESPNU (Comcast 266, HD 853; DirecTV 208; DISH 141)