A year ago, watching a WVU men’s basketball game from start to finish had become fairly difficult to bear.
The play was sloppy, the team chemistry was non-existent, and the will to win seemed to dissipate by the night as the Mountaineers dropped their last seven contests in a row to end the 2012-13 season with a resounding thud.
But after an offseason of major personnel changes and notable internal development, the West Virginia men’s hoops team has shown clear improvement from a season ago, even despite its modest overall record of 13-9.
But the Mountaineers haven’t just been an objectively better basketball team for the bulk of this season, they’ve been a lot more fun to watch, too.
It’s been a variety of factors: the numerous down-to-the-wire endings; the plethora of long-range shots from a pair of the league’s best perimeter shooters in Eron Harris and Terry Henderson; the countless late-game heroics, the emergence of Juwan Staten; not to mention the overall competition level of the Big 12 has also been collectively raised by nearly every team in the conference.
The combined results have been fantastic to this point.
The Mountaineers have played cleaner and higher-scoring games this year. They hold the best turnover-to-assist margin in the Big 12 and are collectively averaging more than 12 points more per game so far this season than last year.
Last season, the Mountaineers didn’t have a single player that averaged double-figures for the season. This year there are at least seven guys who could put up double figures on any given night, and three guards – Staten, Harris and Henderson – who actually do it just about every game they play.
Maybe the best part about all of this is Huggins’ team is still far from reaching its full potential, and the Mountaineers seem to be getting better from game to game. Even Huggins says so.
“We’re getting better. We were just so young to begin the year,” Huggins said. “I think our freshman are starting to understand what it takes to win in this league. I don’t think they had any idea going into it. As much as the older guys tried to tell them, I don’t think they had any understanding of how hard this league is night in and night out.”
The WVU faithful seem to be returning, too.
After a season-high 12,402 fans showed up to see WVU play Kansas at the end of January 2013, attendance figures began to plummet nearly as fast as the Mountaineers’ chances of playing in the postseason.
To begin this year, fans were even more hesitant about coming out and paying to see the Mountaineers at WVU Coliseum, and Huggins himself fielded a number of questions from the press about the lack-of-crowd issue throughout a big part of WVU’s non-conference schedule.
But as the level of opponent and collective level of WVU’s play continued to rise, so did the Mountaineers’ attendance figures.
The Coliseum has seen three straight home crowds of more than 10,000 fans, after just four total home crowds of more than 10,000 all of last season, and has already topped its highest single home attendance total from 2012-13 with home games against No. 21 Oklahoma, No. 16 Iowa State and No. 8 Kansas still all on tap.