Tonight's live WPIAL semifinal blog will come from the Woodland Hills-Upper St. Clair game. Follow the blog for score updates of other semifinal games. If you have a score update, tweet it with #wpial.
Below are semifinal predictions. But before that, here is one piece of news:
Aaron Krepps has resigned as football coach at Belle Vernon. Krepps, a former star player at Belle Vernon, was the Leopards' coach for five seasons. His record was 22-28 but he did guide the Leopards to the playoffs every year.
Now for WPIAL semifinal predictions. Last week's record 14-2.
Upper St. Clair vs. Woodland Hills - The biggest key to this game is injuries. Woodland Hills' 1,000-yard rusher Miles Sanders hasn't played for a few games. Upper St. Clair's Trevor Morrow missed some time last week. It might be easier to pick a winner if we knew the status of those players. That being said, whoever wins up front on the lines will win. These two met at Baldwin in last year's semifinals with Woodland Hills cruising to a win. It will be different this time. Winner: Upper St. Clair
Penn-Trafford vs. Central Catholic - For getting his team to the semifinals, Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane would be a good candidate for coach of the year. But Central Catholic's lines and running game is just too good for the Warriors to advance another round. Luigi Lista-Brinza's running (pictured) will be a major reason why Central Catholic stays undefeated after losing in the semifinals in 2010 and 2011. Winner: Central Catholic.
Central Valley vs. Thomas Jefferson - This is one of the best games in any classification. Central Valley won last week because of some big plays. Thomas Jefferson usually is pretty good at stopping big plays. Winner: Thomas Jefferson.
West Allegheny vs. Franklin Regional - The key is whether Franklin Regional's defense can withstand West Allegheny's running game. West Allegheny has four running backs with at least 300 yards rushing, led by Chayse Dillon (pictured) with 974. QB Andrew Koester has thrown for more than 1,200 yards. Oh yeah. West Allegheny's defense is pretty good, too. Franklin Regional will need a big game from QB Charan Singh to have a chance. Winner: West Allegheny.
Beaver vs. Aliquippa - The last time Beaver was in a WPIAL championship, Pat Tarquinio was the coach, a kid named Shiloh Icenhour the star running back and they beat a Jeannette team that featured a future Parade All-American quarterback in Dante Wiley. That was 1982. Unfortunately for Beaver fans, they will have to wait even longer to see their team back in the title game. Winner: Aliquippa.
Beaver Falls vs. South Fayette - This is a terrific matchup of teams with different styles. South Fayette likes to pass. Beaver Falls likes to run. That being said, I think the play of Beaver Falls QB Danny Stratton and South Fayette's running game could have a huge bearing on this contest. One thing makes me wonder a little about Beaver Falls' defense. The Tigers struggled to beat Beaver, 30-24. Beaver likes to pass. So does South Fayette. Winner: Beaver Falls.
Clairton vs. Sto-Rox - I never like to count out a Clairton team, especially one that has won 22 WPIAL playoff games in a row. But the Bears' defense has showed some holes this season, and Sto-Rox puts a lot of stress on defenses. But Sto-Rox's defense better be on top of its game. Winner: Sto-Rox.
Neshannock vs. North Catholic - North Catholic lost starting QB Adam Sharlow when these two teams met late in the season. I thought the loss of Sharlow might doom North Catholic's chances of getting to Heinz Field. But P.J. Fulmore has done a nice job at QB and the Trojans' defense has been very good all season. Controlling Neshannock QB Ernie Burkes will be a key. Winner: North Catholic.
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-Dan Bylsma and Peter Laviolette are BFFs.
-“It’s kind of cool playing against them, but I think when you get in trouble when you play against them is when you start watching them." - Predators rookie defenseman Seth Jones on facing the Penguins tonight.
-When the Penguins' offense struggles, there appears to be a correlation to their offensive zone faceoffs.
-Former Penguins defenseman Peter Taglianetti's life was impacted by a serious hip ailment.
-The Penguins' outdoor game at Chicago March 1 has been moved from NBC Sports Network to NBC.
-“He’s making smart decisions, his game’s under control, he’s first over the boards for penalty kill and he’s matched against other team’s best players. It’s best for Simon’s game to be focused on those components right now, and he’s played well.” - Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach John Hynes on defenseman Simon Despres (above).
-Eric Hartzell made 37 saves for the Wheeling Nailers in a 1-0 home shutout of the Elmira Jackals.
-The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins assigned defenseman Harrison Ruopp to Wheeling.
-Happy 36th birthday to former Penguins defenseman Richard Lintner (right). Acquired midway through the 2002-03 season along with Joel Bouchard, Rico Fata and Mikael Samuelsson in a deal which sent Mike Wilson, Alex Kovalev, Janne Laukkanen and Dan LaCouture to the Rangers, Lintner's entire Penguins career amounted to 19 games and five points that campaign. In the 2003 offseason, he joined Djurgarden of the Elitserien in Sweden. He currently plays for HK Dukla Trencin of the Slovakian Extraliga.
-Happy 68th birthday to former Penguins forward Jim Shires. Acquired midway through the 1972-73 season in a deal which sent Joe Noris to the Blues, Shire's Penguins' career amounted to 18 games and three points that campaign. After spending all of 1972-73 with San Diego of the WHL, Shires was released from the organization.
-After the Jump: The Panthers and Blackhawks pull off a late night trade.
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This post marks the start of a new series taking a look at the roots of the West Virginia football team and examining, year by year and coach by coach, where the Mountaineer coaching staffs have culled their players from over the last decade-plus. The results just might surprise you.
West Virginia currently fields a roster of 115 players who represent 16 different states plus the District of Columbia.
• Border states Maryland (5), Ohio (17), Pennsylvania (12) and Virginia (5) comprise 33.9 percent of the roster, though WVU hasn't brought in a recruit from Kentucky since 2007.
• 51.3 percent of the roster is relatively home-grown talent -- from West Virginia and its border states -- and 17.3 percent is from West Virginia itself.
• A recent study by Football Study Hall concluded that the top-10 recruit-producing states the last six years are, in order: Texas, Florida, California, Georgia, Ohio, Alabama, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Michigan. WVU has just one player from California and doesn't have a single player from Alabama (last time an AL native committed to 'Eers was 2009), Louisiana (2005), Illinois (unknown) or Michigan (2007).
Graphs and charts? Graphs and charts. (Click to make larger.)
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The Keightley Classic kicks off for Robert Morris tonight with a game against Eastern Michigan (2-0) in the undoubtedly-fun-to-say-but-I-have-no-clue-how-to-pronounce-it city of Ypsilanti, Michigan.
Not even two hours before tip-off, here's a taste of what's to come:
Series history: Eastern Michigan leads, 3-0.
Last meeting: Eastern Michigan won, 99-85, on Nov. 26, on Nov. 26, 2002.
Projected starting lineup:
G Anthony Myers-Pate: 2.5 ppg, 3 apg, 11.1 FG percentage, 30 FT percentage
G Karvel Anderson: 21 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 56 FG percentage, 58.3 3-point percentage
F Lucky Jones: 11.5 ppg, 3 rpg, 41.2 FG percentage
F Aaron Tate: 6.5 ppg, 1 rpg, 60 FG percentage
C Mike McFadden: 11 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 50 FG percentage
What Eastern Michigan does well: The Eagles are 2-0 and have won those games by a combined 77 points, but neither of those came against a Division I team. This will make it tricky to accurate judge them, but there are a few things worth pointing out. They're a solid defensive squad, as they rank 106th in adjusted defensive efficiency (for the sake of comparison, RMU is currently 227). Four players on the team are averaging double figures in points, so there's some balance to be had. That group is led by G Karrington Ward, who is averaging 17 points per game and is also the team's leading rebounder, pulling down 5.5 boards per game. Mike Talley -- whose name might sound familiar since he is a Duquesne transfer -- has an assist rate of 42.3 right now, putting him among the top 40 players in the country. Simply put, guys have gotten buckets when he's on the court.
What Eastern Michigan does not do well: On the opposite end of what's a pretty good defense is a bad offense. I'm assuming the data is up to date, but Ken Pomeroy has the Eagles at No. 317 (out of about 350 DI teams) in adjusted offensive efficiency. Then again, they have averaged 1.24 and 1.19 points per possession in their first two games, so maybe they're something of a statistical oddity so far. They also struggle to get to the free-throw line (or they have so far) and once they get there, they're not great at making their shots, evidenced by a 61 percent team free throw percentage.
Some notable stats:
- RMU scored at least 85 points in its first two games for the first time since the 2002-03 season and for just the second time in the school's 38-year history as a DI program.
-- About 41 percent of RMU's available minutes are going to bench players, up about four percent from last season.
-- A win tonight would give the Colonials their first 3-0 start since the 2006-07 season.
KenPom prediction: Robert Morris 63, Eastern Michigan 61