Column - Win at K-State would be huge for young WVU
Published: Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 00:12
At this point in his career, Bob Huggins knows how important quality non-conference wins can be when March comes around.
That's exactly why he has been known to give his West Virginia teams one of the toughest out-of-conference schedules in the country since he took over in Morgantown.
The Mountaineers are currently in what is undoubtedly their most difficult four-game stretch before they reach Big East Conference play.
It started with an impressive victory over Akron, a team considered to be one of the best mid-major programs in the country and continued over the weekend when West Virginia fell on the road to No. 24 Mississippi State.
As WVU prepares to enter its final two games in this part of the schedule, it's crucial that it come away with at least one more victory. And getting one in Wichita, Kan., Thursday night against the Wildcats would look very nice on the Mountaineers' tournament resume.
"Everybody says, ‘Play a great schedule and you'll be rewarded,'" Huggins said. "You're rewarded when you win. There's nothing rewarding about losing."
With a team as young as Huggins' has, wins against a talented Kansas State team in what is going to be a difficult road environment would not be a good resume win for them.
It would be an instant confidence boost for an inexperienced group that is in need for a signature win over a team from one of the major conferences to help them continue to get better heading into Big East play.
But, with that said, a win would look great come March.
You'll have a tough time finding a lot of teams deeper than Kansas State. The Wildcats come into the game with eight different players who play at least 15 minutes per game and seven who average at least 7.5 points – and that includes four in double figures.
A quality win here, with the confidence to go on the road and beat a good team, will go far with the Mountaineers, and it could even end up giving them the momentum
moving forward with their game against Miami, Fla. at the Coliseum, and then even more when they head to Las Vegas for their most difficult non-conference game of the season Dec. 23 against No. 7 Baylor.
Gaining any confidence they can – especially coming off of a loss to Mississippi State that left a bitter taste in their mouths – is going to be crucial.
"All the teams that we play like Akron, Mississippi State, Kansas State and Miami – all those teams are going to end up being top-100 RPI teams," said junior forward Deniz Kilicli. "We should get those wins right now so you'll make it easier to go to the NCAA tournament."
It will prove this young team is tougher than we've seen up to this point in the year.
It will show they can handle adversity and bounce back like they will need to do when the Big East teams come around.
And, if the Mountaineers can win, it could prove they might be worthy of being
rewarded with an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament in March.
But, like Huggins said, you can't be rewarded if you don't win.