Improving WVU still has long way to go
Published: Thursday, January 17, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 17, 2013 00:01
It was tough to not scratch your head a couple weeks ago when the West Virginia men’s basketball team was in the middle of blowing a 12-point second- half lead to Oklahoma.
The Mountaineers were soft.
They weren’t playing hard.
They were basically the exact opposite of what every other team coached by Bob Huggins had been, and their record and performances were showing it.
West Virginia, at the time, was 7-6 and looked well on its way to missing its first NCAA tournament since Huggins took over six seasons ago. And to be honest, three games later, it still looks that way.
But the Mountaineers have made some small improvements. They’ve started to play with a lot more effort and energy than previously.
Playing like that and getting back to the style of play that Huggins wants has given them more confidence – and it has shown at times.
With that said, Wednesday night’s loss on the road against Iowa State proved that, even with the added effort, there’s still plenty of work this team has to do before it can think about making another trip to the NCAA tournament.
Offensively, this team hasn’t improved much at all. The Mountaineers have started to score better, but still lack a true go-to scorer to give the ball in close games or with the game on the line.
It doesn’t help that it’s been a while since this team has been able to play its five best players on the floor at the same time. Juwan Staten just played for the first time since the first half of the Texas game, but then Terry Henderson missed Iowa State with a back injury.
Of course things can change when everyone gets back and healthy, but I’m not buying it yet. I’m not sure if it’s a chemistry thing or what, and it’s understandable that such a young team could struggle, but this team hasn’t been able to play with any kind of consistency.
For periods of time, they’ll play well and then, for an even longer period of time, the Mountaineers will fail to score and teams will either get back in the game or extend their lead.
The best example of that is looking at this team’s second-half run Wednesday night. The Mountaineers were playing with so much effort when they were playing well, but real teams can play with that type of effort the entire 40 minutes.
This West Virginia team has allowed those droughts to hurt its confidence too much this season, and the amount the Mountaineers have struggled and how poorly they play when they can’t make shots is a big reason they’ve lost a lot of the games they’ve lost.
Since Huggins has been at WVU, his teams have always done what tournament teams do. Even if their record doesn’t show it, because of the daunting schedules the Mountaineers usually play, they do enough things the right way, and you just have a feeling that they can find a way to earn a spot in the tournament by winning a few marquee games that will look good on their resume.
I’m not sure if this team has the ability to do that from what they’ve shown up to this point in the season.
And if they don’t prove me wrong soon, they’ll be watching the NCAA tournament from home this season.