After the Texas A&M debacle to start the season, fans had the West Virginia Mountaineers destined for the NIT. Some even went as far to say a losing season.
My, how the tables have turned, at least for now.
Bob Huggins has his team playing at an unbelievable level at the moment. Considering the players he lost from last season—Nate Adrian, Tarik Phillip, Teyvon Myers, Brandon Watkins and Elijah Macon—plus the half season suspension for Esa Ahmad, the job Huggins and his staff has done is nothing short of remarkable.
The team was most recently ranked 11th in the AP poll, the highest ranking for any Big 12 team. So basically, as of right now, the pollsters are saying that the Mountaineers are the team to beat in what is arguably college basketball’s deepest conference.
And fans are asking themselves constantly, “how in the world is this happening?”
And the answer is, Huggins must be the best coach in basketball. Period.
Huggins is known for his demeanor on the sideline which shows him screaming at his players, getting in their face or yanking them out after just one mistake, even if that mistake is minor.
But, his players LOVE him.
He demands perfection and is also not short on humor. After the win over Pittsburgh, Huggins’ comments made it sound as if his team had gotten throttled. He stated that he wished he would have gotten a chair for Lamont West so he wouldn’t hurt his knees with all the standing around he did.
Yet, West had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Just look at the roster he is winning with.
Yes, Jevon Carter is one of the nation’s best overall players. He and fellow senior Daxter Miles, Jr. have carried this team on their backs, with help from Sagaba Konate, West, Wesley Harris and Beetle Bolden.
But the team is not near as deep as they were last year which takes away some of the effectiveness of the press defense and the overall aggressiveness in which the team plays. Yet, here they sit, a couple weeks before Christmas after an embarrassing first game performance, ranked as the highest Big 12 team with a 9-1 record, with several good NCAA tournament resume’ wins.
When Miles has to exit a game, Chase Harler usually comes in. Not knocking Harler at all because he hustles and plays hard, but he is not yet anywhere close to a Phillip clone. Also, last season Konate replaced Macon when Macon went out. This year, Magic Bender is the first off the bench and he has struggled mightily at times. His confidence seems to be lacking and it affects his gameday performance. Supposedly he is really good in practice, but his “light” hasn’t yet come on and it sometimes rears its ugly head on the court. The only other option there is walk-on/one year scholarship player, Logan Routt.
Deangelo Hunter was an intriguing prospect when he signed as his athleticism and shooting were strengths. Although he has had some good moments, he still is trying to learn what he’s doing on offense and defense which is limiting his potential. This past week Huggins made a reference to Hunter stating he doesn’t go as hard in practice as he should and his minutes-per-game numbers are reflecting that.
Last but not least, freshman Teddy Allen has shown flashes, but he has hit his first year wall a little too early. In the last two games, he has been a non-factor.
Something no one mentions, and that includes announcers and writers, is freshman point guard Brandon Knapper’s season ending injury that occurred a couple months before the season. Knapper would have been a key piece on this team and possibly a top three player, but his injury has gone completely overlooked for this season from outsiders. Several sources close to the team indicated that the South Charleston product is a legit future NBA player.
But again, even with all that working against them here sits WVU at 9-1. And the schedule hasn’t been a cakewalk. UCF, Missouri and Virginia are good teams. Morgan State was predicted to challenge for their league title and the Mountaineers beat them 111-48.
If Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim or whomever for that matter, was the coach of WVU, what would the Mountaineers record be?
See, when you coach in Morgantown, you’re not going to find 5-star McDonald’s All-American, one-and-done type players who you can just tell to, “go play.” What you will find are hard-working, blue collar, gritty, tough athletes that will sacrifice whatever they can for the betterment of the TEAM.
And it’s something Huggins demands of his players.
Huggins has to be the best coach in basketball. Maybe at any level. Because I seriously doubt any of the aforementioned coaches above could win 10 games with the circumstances that “Huggy” has faced so far in 2017.
And fans are hoping and expecting their beloved son coach to keep it going all the way into late March.