Column - In Bob We Trust
Published: Thursday, December 1, 2011
Updated: Friday, December 2, 2011 03:12
After an exhibition loss to Northern Kentucky and a double-digit loss to Kent State, I was skeptical of this year's basketball team.
Let's be honest – we all were.
This looked like a team that would struggle to make the NIT tournament, let alone the NCAA's equivalent.
The team struggled to score, looked like a squad with nine freshmen and, at times, as Bart Scott would say, couldn't stop a nosebleed.
But, it was after that loss to Kent State that Bob Huggins had some words of encouragement.
"We'll fix it," he said. "I just can't fix everything at once."
Huggins' team responded with three straight victories since that Kent State loss. Granted, the competition level has been subpar, but West Virginia is outscoring its opponents by an average of 85 to 55 in its past three games.
The most recent win was over the Akron Zips, who won earlier this season at Mississippi State.
What has Huggins "fixed" about this team?
It all starts on the defensive end. The Mountaineers are allowing about 17 points less per game since the loss to Kent State.
Freshmen guards Jabarie Hinds and Gary Browne are playing with purpose. At the beginning of the season, the two didn't know where they were.
Now, they not only know where they are, but where they're going.
Multiple players have provided a spark off of the bench.
Freshmen Paul Williamson, Pat Forsythe, Aaron Brown and Kevin Noreen have all played a key role in recent victories. This is something that the Mountaineers were lacking at the beginning of the season.
This season's team will by no means compete with the success of last year's team that reached the third round of the NCAA tournament or the 2010 Final Four team.
But, Bob Huggins will find a way – like he has done early in the season and throughout his career, for that matter, to get the most out of his team's talent.
With the inexperience, the 2011-12 season will be full of ups and downs.
Expect somewhere between 18-22 wins and for the Mountaineers' NCAA tournament hopes to be on the fence come March.
West Virginia will travel to Starkville, Miss., to take on the No. 21 Mississippi State Bulldogs.
This will be the first college road game for nine players on the roster.
I expect a sluggish game from the Mountaineers.
If they lose to the Bulldogs, I wouldn't be surprised.
But, expect Huggins to target what went wrong in the game and fix it – like he always does.
He just can't fix everything at once.