Better times on the horizon for Mountaineer men’s basketball team - The Daily Athenaeum: Sports

Better times on the horizon for Mountaineer men’s basketball team

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Posted: Monday, March 17, 2014 11:58 pm

2010 must seem like a distant memory for the West Virginia men’s basketball team.

On Sunday, the NCAA Selection Committee confirmed the Mountaineers wouldn’t qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row after a first round exit in the Big 12 Tournament.

WVU hasn’t won a game in the conference tournament since the 2010 season when the Mountaineers won the Big East Tournament and lost to Duke in the Final Four.

WVU finished 17-15 on the year with a 9-9 record in conference play, a four-game improvement from the 2012-13 season. WVU woefully made the tournament in 2011 but lost convincingly to Gonzaga in the first round.

Although times have been tough for the Mountaineer faithful in recent seasons, the tides should be turning soon.

Yes, WVU only won 17 games this year, but it did so with almost an entirely new roster. Jabarie Hinds, Aaron Brown, Keaton Miles, Aaric Murray and Deniz Kilicli all left the team in the offseason. Coach Bob Huggins admitted last year’s team was one of the most difficult teams he had to coach, because they were unwilling to change their defensive ways and often seemed disinterested.

And it showed in their play. Huggins’ 13 wins last season marks his lowest win total in a season since he began coaching in 1980.

With the Mountaineers needing to fill a void in their front court, Huggins signed four-star recruit Devin Williams. Although inconsistent at times, Williams showed great potential near the end of his freshman year, posting three straight double-doubles. He averaged 8.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

In his second season in Morgantown, point guard Juwan Staten showed the Big 12 he’s not only the top point guard in the conference, but perhaps the nation. Staten earned First Team All-Big 12 honors this season and lead the conference in both scoring and assists. He went from averaging 7.6 points and 3.3 assist his sophomore year to 18.0 points, 5.8 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game his junior year.

Eron Harris followed up his promising freshman year with a solid sophomore season, scoring 17.4 points per contest on 42 percent shooting from 3-point range.

And assuming Staten doesn’t dart for the NBA Draft, this same unit will stay in tact next season because the current roster has no seniors. With another offseason under their belts, coupled with the fact that the rest of the Big 12 won’t have the same experience WVU has, a run in the NCAA Tournament next season is a strong possibility.

WVU is also welcoming four-star recruit Daxter Miles and Jevon Carter (three-star recruit) to the program next season. Four-star recruit Elijah Macon was unable to play this season due to ineligibility rules but should be expected in the lineup in 2014-15.

So be patient, Mountaineer fans. College basketball is a very cyclic sport, and it often takes programs a few years to rebuild off the success it once had. Although Huggins hasn’t recruited the big time, five-star players that some schools are lucky to sign, he finds guys who will stay with the program for multiple seasons. With a solid core already in tact, there’s plenty of reason for excitement at the Coliseum.

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